Brent Mazerolle wrote an interesting article in todays Time & Transcript regarding the pros and cons of having a full time mayor vs having a part time mayor.
Having read through the article, and considered the question myself in the past I feel there is a slightly different view point that may not be discussed.
When the voters in various municipalities go to vote on May 24th, their vote for mayor is based on the vision that the mayoral candidates have presented. In today’s system of part time mayors and weak mayor systems those votes count for very little. The reason is that a weak mayor system means that often a mayor is handcuffed from moving his vision forward because the city staff feel that a different direction is preferrable and they feel that as the full time long term employees they have the right to make the final decision. Now, because previous mayors have not stepped on this behaviour in any way, they sense of entitlement continues and it becomes an ongoing cycle with the city staff continuing from mandate to mandate putting their vision into action regardless of what the voters and their representatives, the mayor and council, have to say on the issue.
While I do believe that this system could be halted in it’s tracks with a few terminations, what ends up happening then is the long term expertise in the department is lost and we stand the risk of upper management of city staff becoming another patronage position offered to friends or family of the mayor and council instead of being filled by qualified individuals.
This means that without a strong mayor system we do not have any way of being certain that the mayor and council’s vision can be carried out without losing the presence of qualified staff members to keep things on track and keep council from making serious mistakes.
As far as the issue of salary that is bandied about regarding a full time mayor, that to me is far less important. I personally, and history seems to support that past mayors as well have done this, intend if elected to spend the hours of a full time job minimum anyway. So why not call a spade, a spade and say the job is full time. There is no serious reason to increase the salary, definitely not to any serious level. By calling the position full time, we also put the position of mayor as the primary job that the person serving in that position does, instead of a second, full time job, being the more important simply because of it’s full time status.
Long term, I do believe we need to move to a full time mayor and council, however I also believe that the financial end of the issue does not have to change over much. The size of our city is large enough to justify a full time mayor however by the same token it is not large enough to justify a salary in any way similar to the 140,000 that the Halifax mayor receives.