Now's the time for checks and balances
To the Editor:
Several authors of opinions published in the August Heights Observer lauded Cleveland Heights’ current system of government as “collaborative.” I agree. But it requires collaboration between two branches of government that ought to be separate: the legislative and the executive.
With the current system, city council not only hires, and can fire, the city manager, it is also charged with supervising the manager, and therefore, indirectly, city staff. This means that council, which is supposed to be the legislative branch of city government, spends much of its time protecting and attempting to manage the executive branch. Rather than providing checks and balances, council members have a vested interest in making the city manager look good, since that makes them look good. It may not always, however, be what is best for our city.
There is not a single elected official working at Cleveland Heights City Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. A weak city council can become little more than a rubber stamp for the city manager.
Moreover, the spectacle of seven part-time council members trying to accomplish everything required of them can be painful. I am one of four or five CH residents who regularly attend the working sessions of council, called Committee of the Whole meetings, and we know. Most of our council members have day jobs and families, as well. While their service to the city for a pittance in pay is laudable, it really is hard for them to keep up with the volume of work required.
I have personally witnessed our current city manager lamenting the fact that she must answer to seven bosses. Surely this makes efficiently administering city affairs more difficult.
Part-time council members who don’t have responsibility for supervising the city’s administration will be better able to respond directly to constituents and fulfill their responsibilities as legislators. Having an elected mayor and appointed city administrator working full time to handle the executive branch will create a real system of checks and balances in our city government. For good governance, we need that!