Weak mayor can be strong leaderPublished 12:02am Wednesday, April 18, 2012
A simple fact that presumably governs the City of Natchez isn’t a fact at all. It’s only a matter of opinion.
Those who pay any attention to local government have heard it before, but it’s not a concept the majority will ever spend time trying to comprehend.
The City of Natchez has a strong board of aldermen, weak mayor form of government.
It’s true, but that doesn’t make it a fact.
Yes, in Natchez it is the six aldermen who — on paper and often in reality — hold all the power.
In order for the city to do anything — pave a road, amend the budget, hire a police chief or build a recreation complex — one alderman must make a motion, another must second the motion and at least three aldermen must cast a vote in favor of the motion.
If four or more aldermen are either for or against a motion, the mayor of Natchez gets no vote.
Only when there is a 3-3 tie among the aldermen does the mayor get any say-so in the matter.
Ties are the rarity, so most often, the mayor has no actual say in how the city he governs is run.
Or does he?
It depends entirely on how you look at it.
Talk to the candidates in the May 1 primary election for aldermen and mayor, and you’ll soon realize weak mayor/strong board is a matter of opinion.
It has a textbook definition, but the man or woman who fills the mayor’s chair takes the matter out of the textbook and into the real world.
Even longtime aldermen are quick to admit that the mayor of Natchez can get things done if he wants to do so.
Each alderman has a vote, but a mayor who builds consensus can have six votes.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and Natchez voters ultimately have five different options on the ballots this spring.
As you, the voter, are talking with candidates, attending forums and reading push cards and advertisements, two questions should be the most important.
First, does the candidate for mayor have ideas that you support?
Second, can he build the consensus needed to make his ideas a reality?
If you can answer “yes” to both questions in reference to one candidate, you know where your vote should go.
Forget the textbook; this is real life. Weak and strong are adjectives that describe people, not pre-defined forms of government.
Natchez can have a strong mayor and strong board of aldermen, a strong mayor and weak board, a weak mayor and strong board or a weak mayor and weak board.
The choice is yours, and the answer has not already been defined. And that’s a fact.
Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.