Less than six years after Pensacola’s current city charter took effect, at least one city council member wants to abandon the so-called “strong mayor” form of government.
Pensacola residents voted in 2009 to adopt a new city charter which placed most executive powers in the hands of a full-time mayor. From 1931 through 2010, Pensacola used the council-manager form of government, in which most powers resided with the city council, who hired a professional city manager to manage the city’s day-to-day operations.
Councilwoman Sherri Myers says she supported the charter back in 2009, but she now feels that it isn’t working. She wants to see the city move back to a council-manager form of government, and she’s asking her fellow council members to put the issue on the ballot in November. If approved, a committee would be formed to write a new charter using the previous form of government.
“I think there are changes that need to be made in the charter to create a healthy balance of power,” Myers said Tuesday.
A 2015 Mason-Dixon survey conducted by Pensacola Young Professionals found that 79% of city residents feel the city is headed in the right direction, compared to just 26% in 2008. Despite those numbers, Myers believes that many residents would support getting rid of the “strong mayor” system.
“I do believe there is a lot of support for changing the form of government, or at least making some substantial changes in the charter,” Myers said. “People are generally satisfied with the economic growth of the city and city services. However, the residents that I hear from are very unhappy over quality of life issues, such as traffic calming, lack of sidewalks, speeding traffic, lack of adequate street lighting, storm water issues, emergency management, etc.”
Myers’ proposal to repeal the charter is just one of nine different proposed charter amendments which could be discussed by council members next week. Other proposed changes include:
- Stripping the mayor of his veto powers
- Requiring city council confirmation of the mayor’s city administrator appointment
- Making the mayor a non-voting member of the city council
- Requiring the council’s approval for removal of department heads
- Giving the council, rather than the mayor, the power to organize the city government’s departments
- Rotating the city council presidency and vice presidency
- Establishing an independent personnel board
- Moving the commencement of elected officials’ terms from the fourth Tuesday in November to the first Tuesday in December
Myers said Wednesday that her preference would be to seat a new charter review commission which could examine all of the proposed changes, hers included, and present their recommendations to the council.