Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mayors organization fighting recall efforts

The US Conference of Mayors produced a video called "Recall Fever," and has launched an initiative to support mayors facing recall efforts, according to the McClatchy-Tribune article "Recall fever spreads nationwide." From the article:

Ballotpedia, a nonprofit that tracks recall elections, identified 57 mayors who faced recall attempts last year – up from 23 in 2009. Just 15 of the 57 mayors either resigned or lost office. This year, 15 mayors have faced recall elections, from Portland, Oregon to Miami-Dade, Florida — the largest municipal recall election in U.S. history. ...

The mayors noted that there were some common factors in the various recall efforts, including the targeting of mayors who have raised taxes or slashed budgets. "Do you want mayors who take the positions that are necessary to do the right thing for the community or do you want to listen to the naysayers?" asked Akron Ohio Mayor Don Plusquellic, who survived a 2009 recall election.

Several recall efforts were also bankrolled by wealthy individuals. One of them, billionaire businessman Norman Braman, who spent $1 million of his own money in last month’s successful recall of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, suggested the mayors’ have misplaced priorities.

“They should try to improve the quality of the mayors they represent instead of trying to protect them,” said Braman, who targeted Alvarez after the mayor pushed for a property tax hike to plug a gaping budget hole. “These are difficult times and it’s not time to raise taxes and give staff salary increases. That’s what it was all about. If the mayors were more responsible to the needs of the county, they wouldn’t need to face the risk of a recall.”

I know that when I was in Chattanooga, the mayor there was facing a recall effort in response to increases in sewer and water fees that rose in response to having to build new infrastructure to meet new federal water quality requirements.

On the other hand, there is no recall effort in Nassau County, New York, where the county is flirting with bankruptcy. See "The Real Deficits of Nassau County" from Bloomberg Businessweek.

While I am not against recall efforts, the reality is that they are not endgames, they are beginning points. So if there isn't a "plan" on how to move forward past the recall, few things change.

From the Businessweek article, which covers the special budget oversight authority overseeing Nassau County's finances:

Indeed, for all the attention a few unbending governors across the country have earned, it may be that Mangano is the more typical leader, denial the more typical response.

"Elected officials don't want to make tough choices anymore, and they are flat-out refusing to do so," says Ward of the Rockefeller Institute of Government. "We're more and more going to turn to these unelected and arguably less accountable authorities to make the tough decisions."

"We have to solve Nassau County," says Stack. "It is not suffering economic malaise. It's not suffering massive poverty. It should be able to solve its problems. But it requires political will." Is NIFA a substitute for political will? "No, but we can provide support for the elected officials," he says. "NIFA can be unpopular. We don't care. We're not running for office."

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