Letter to the Editor

Next-to-the-last chance

Monday, March 27, 2006

Dear Editor,

The council has one more chance to redeem itself and vote to withdraw the contract offered to our ex-City Manager. Any of the three members who voted to rehire John Bingham can simply "move to reconsider the motion to hire," get a second, and then vote a majority and the deed is done.

Actually, the problem with a too ambitious or too recalcitrant city manager lies not with the individual but with the council. The city manager system of government lends itself to a weak mayor whose primary function is to chair the regular meetings of the council.

The mayor also performs those symbolic community functions expected of the senior elected official in the city. Day-to-day direction and oversight of the work staff is the function of the city manager. The city manager also prepares the council agenda and in actual practice, absent a strong mayor, directs the council's business.

The City Council is responsible for giving the city manager direction both for the short term and long range future planning.

Unfortunately in actual practice, it is too easy for a strong manager, usually an outsider to the community, to manipulate the council to achieve whatever goal he desires.

Our mayors, chosen by the council, usually have a full- time job and tend not to devote the time required to give the adequate leadership the community deserves.

John Bingham in his past service has, in my opinion, practically stopped all residential building within the city limits. He has accomplished the "stop work" by endless hassling the tradesmen that make their living in the community.

By one estimate 90 percent of the businessmen in the City are opposed to his return. Yet the council, either by omission or commission, has overlooked his past record and elected to rehire the man.

One present Councilman told me that he liked the way that John Bingham blindly followed each city ordinance because it kept the city from being sued. In my opinion the ordinances are general guidelines for future action. Circumstances change and the ordinances need to change to adapt. Lack of flexibility, by the city manager, dooms the community to mediocrity.

Two options come to mind to solve the too-strong city manager problem for McCook. The Council could offer a much smaller (reasonable) salary for the position which would entice educated and qualified but inexperienced candidates.

The "new" managers would hopefully be more amenable to pursuing the direction of the council rather than manipulating the council to their own selfish desires. The second option would be to adopt the strong mayor/city administrator system of government.

I predict that if the council refuses to heed, what I think is, the opinion of the majority of the citizens of McCook and keeps John Bingham on as city manager, the voters will be electing a new set of Council Members this fall.

Dick Trail


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