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To the editor:
First, I want to thank Councilman (Dwayne) Martin for taking the time to write his Letter to the Editor (Altus Times, Saturday, Oct. 13).
However, some of his statements are very troubling. For example, he states, “…certain department heads had broad individual authority and autonomy with very little oversight or accountability, due entirely to the fact they had prevailed in an election.” Later in his letter, he states, “…under the old system, with a mayor who, simply by virtue of the fact that he won a popularity contest, had broad individual authority and was not accountable to no one.”
Councilman Martin, and those who think like him, would have the public believe those elected by us are not accountable to us, that we would be better served by having those positions such as Chief of Police, City Clerk, Street Commissioner, be appointed by a city manager. If those elected by us do not do their jobs, we elect a new person, but if the proposals pass, the city manager becomes their boss and they would “obey” her or else.
The councilman also states, “Unfortunately, winning an election doesn’t somehow bestow great knowledge and wisdom upon someone. It simply means he/she came out on top in a popularity contest.” Well, that is true, but he/she is the people’s choice…. not someone picked by a person not directly responsible to the people.
The councilman goes on and claims that the Aldermanic form of government is “truly the good old boy system.” What in the world does he call the system he advocates? It is one that puts too much authority in the hands of one person; a person who is an administrator, not a qualified police authority, not an expert of clerk duties, or street commissioner duties, yet under the Charter change proposals would have supreme authority over them.
It would be most difficult to have any disagreements with the city manager. Councilman Martin states that he and the council exercise near constant oversight and guidance of the city manager. Yet, he already built the case that those “elected by popularity contest” aren’t very qualified. How are we to believe that a majority of councilmen would take serious action against the city manager in a dispute with one of the offices now elected by the people?
It is true that we need good people to run for office, that are experienced, educated and motivated to serve our community. It is also true that a city manager to handle day-to-day affairs is needed. But, we definitely do not need a person to be given near absolute authority over all areas of city government, who is only marginally accountable to the people.
The propositions should not be passed.