Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Efficient City Government

I spoke with 15th District Alderman Robert Mozol yesterday about his proposal to extend the terms of Racine aldermen from two years to three. At this time, the proposal has been referred to the committe of the whole, according to Mozol.

I asked him how his proposed change would benefit Racine residents. His answer, paraphrased, was that Racine residents would benefit from a more efficient government. It takes time for an alderman to learn the ins and outs of city government, and that extra year would help aldermen get things done. A very small amount of money would be saved with fewer elections, though, to be fair to Mozol, he did not emphasize this point.

I disagree with Alderman Mozol for the following reasons, listed in no particular order:

1) If an alderman hasn't sufficiently learned the ropes after two years, he probably wouldn't be an efficient leader in his third year anyway, so voters should retain the right to replace him rather than live with his inefficiencies for yet another year.

2)The proposal, with respect to improving efficiency, would only affect first term aldermen. Do we want really want to reduce voter input by 50% so that a few slow learners can stay in office an extra year?

3)Our system of government was designed - think checks and balances - to be inefficient so that impulsive mistakes are not made.

4) Why is efficiency so important anyway? 6 year terms would be more efficient still. Elections are less efficient than appointments. Or we could do away with aldermen altogether and just have a mayor that issues orders. That would be more efficient still. My point is that perhaps we shouldn't be so enamored with efficiency in government.

5) Presently, a small percentage of voters elect our aldermen. Most aldemen continue on to a second term unopposed. Most residents have little or no input in city government between elections. Wouldn't government serve us better with more citizen input rather than this proposal which would reduce it further?

6)Veteran political observers well know that impending elections can have a dramatic effect on legislation. What this means, in other words, is that politicians will legislate differently, and often better, when they know that voters are watching more carefully. A local example, I suspect, was the West Racine low income housing proposal. This was sailing through the development office, committees etc... and then Becker got busted, an election ensued, and the proposal was shot down, unanimously if I recall correctly.

Sorry folks, I have been a bit wordy. I will wrap this up as efficiently as I can. Alderman Mozol's proposal is a bad idea for Racine.


Enough Already said...

I used to believe that efficiency in government was good. Having exerienced efficient government, though, I am not so sure it is good.

UNIT is efficient.

So were the Nazi's.
Responsive government is better. As Denis pointed out, representatives are most responsive right before and during elections.
I am not recommending having an election right before every ordinance is passed, but it would probably be better than what is going on over at City Hall now.
If we had an election just before the Rummage Sale Ordinance passed, do you really think it would be on the books now?

Anonymous said...

This is a very good point. I once heard a friend say that having bipartisan cooperation was like having his and his wife's divorce attorneys agree. I think that working with respect to issues, not the election of individuals, attacks the root of "efficiency" vs. "responsiveness".

Colt said...

Alderman Robert Mozol thinks perhaps that elections are really not necessary since the council knows better then we do.
I think Alderman Robert Mozol needs to rethink this by not being on the council.

Anonymous said...

On the legislative side of things, 2 year terms seem to work quite well.

The County Board, the State Assembly, village boards and town boards operate on a 2 year term.

Accountability by an elected official would seem to trump expanding the term any day. If Alderman Mozol's intent is to expand his tenure in office, then all he needs to do is be responsive to his constituents instead of trying to extend the term of office.

Should we even discuss the matter of "term limits" as the ultimate tool in efficient government?

Another Father for Liberty said...

Jody Harding for alderwoman!

Anonymous said...

We need Jody and Dennis on the council.

Enough Already said...

Throw in Jaimie Charon, Kandy Meyers (blogger and president of the Racine Taxpayers Association) and Ken Brown and we would have a butt kickin' council that would get some jobs and people(!) back in town.

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