Two stories over the past two weeks have called into question over “who really runs the city.”
An anonymous source leaked to the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier of a heated email exchange between Mayor Quentin Hart and councilman Tim Lind over the process of hiring a part-time communications director. By all accounts, Hart followed the rules, and had authority, to hire a part-time position…without seeking the city council’s approval.
While that was going on, the city of Muscatine has themselves a soap opera brewing. Their city council has filed impeachment charges against their mayor, Diane Broderson. Broderson filed suit against the city council for attempting to strip her powers as mayor over a similar situation: the appointment of board and commission members.
Yes, Hart and Broderson are facing elements of racial and gender factors (Hart is black, Broderson is female), but the crux of this is usually a long-running issue: who has more power…the mayor, the city council, or the city manager/administrator.
When I moved to Davenport in 2015, it’s city administrator Craig Malin resigned as former mayor Bill Gluba was canvassing votes for Malin’s ouster over the planned move of Rhythm City Casino to a location near the intersection of Interstate 80 and 74. The fiasco cost Gluba dearly, as he lost to Frank Klipsch in the mayoral election that fall.
This is not a surprise. Nor should it be.
Local governments, much like Congress, can turn citizens into power hungry egomaniacs hell-bent on forcing their own personal “Manifest Destiny” once they get elected.
I don’t much know about Muscatine (only what I have read), but I do know Waterloo. It’s my hometown.
From what I can gauge with Waterloo (and I could be wrong), there is a city councilman, Steve Schmitt, that has ran for mayor several times and have lost each time. Hart was a city councilman until he ran and was elected mayor. The problem is that Schmitt has a reputation of questioning the mayor’s office and the competency of Hart and his predecessor, Tim Hurley, That has only intensified with Hart now in the mayor’s office.
Last summer, Schmitt engineered a council vote to reject footing the bill for Hart to attend a mayor’s conference in Washington, D.C.. Hart had to pay for the trip out of his own pockets, along with a little help from a Kickstarter campaign from several of his supporters.
This isn’t the only time Schmitt has placed himself as a “wannabe” mayor. He acts like a mayor, talks like a mayor, tries to do business as a mayor….but he isn’t the mayor. The mayor has authority, and that authority is being undermined. The email flap between Hart and councilman Tim Lind has exacerbated matters.
In the Broderson matter, the Muscatine city council has worked feverishly to strip all of Broderson’s authority as mayor, citing “habitual neglect” of her “fiduciary duties.” This stems from last August when the city council began the process to change the appointment authority for boards and commissions to a nominating committee, and the ability to appoint and remove the fire and police chiefs to the city administrator, subject to the approval of the city council.
A nominating committee comprised of two council members, the mayor, and the city administrator or appointed staff member was created to review applications for boards and commissions and bring recommendations to the city council for approval. Previously, the mayor held appointment and removal powers, subject to the approval of the council.
A letter was sent to Muscatine citing that the changes could be in violation of the Iowa Code. According to the Code, a city with a population of 8,000 or more should appoint three civil service commissioners to handle the appointments if there is a paid fire and/or police department.
Upon learning of the city council’s attempt to strip her powers as mayor, Broderson filed a suit against the city council to block them from moving forward with their plans.
And all we care about is what is going on in Washington, and there is trouble in our own backyards.
As Strother Martin said in “Cool Hand Luke” “What we got here is failure to communicate.” Since when do city councils, school boards, or any other elected forms of council decided that they know how to run a city better than a mayor, city administrator, or a city manager?
Quentin Hart and Diane Broderson has to be thinking to themselves what Bill Parcells famously said about coaching and running a football team:
If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.
These are power play moves in politics. When voters keep re-electing people, the less likely those incumbents are willing to upset the status quo. When someone new arrives and attempts to change the culture, there will always be pushback.
But these pushbacks that are being waged at Hart and Broderson looks like a Sunday School picnic where everyone wants to hand out a slice of pound cake, but they’re unwilling to slice an equal amount of cake to share.
But, what do I know? No one is going to read this blog. I talk about topics no one cares about…unless if it’s about protest marches and building walls.