Group pushes for ‘strong-mayor’ government system in Austin

The group is pushing for a system of government with a strong Austin mayor

The reform would eliminate the job of city administrator, a job Marc Ott held for years in Austin.

A move that could dramatically increase the mayor’s power could come up for election in May. The Austinites for Progressive Reform advocate group is pushing for a “strong mayor” form of government and believes the move will create a much better democracy.

Based on their website, voting the mayoral election with the president, eliminating runoff elections, and increasing the mayor’s power are some examples of what the change would entail.

“We had a general system, we had 10: 1. We are evolving into a bigger city that requires a different form of leadership where you have checks and balances,” said Nelson Linder, Austin’s NAACP president and supporter.

“As for the strong mayor, I prefer the council of mayors because you’re implying that this person rules everything. The council has a lot of power in this system. They will be legislators where they can write guidelines and not sit back and watch what the mayor does. You can form viable coalitions, but you can also hold the mayor accountable, “Linder said.

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The reform would eliminate the job of city administrator, a job Marc Ott held for years in Austin. “I’ve spent most of my career in cities with community administrators, but I’ve spent about four years in cities with strong mayors,” he said.

Ott now works in Washington DC as the Executive Director of the International City / Council Management Association and hopes Austin can maintain the City Managers Council system.

“In a city with strong mayors, the mayor is the chief executive, the chief administrator who is responsible for day-to-day operations. They set fires to do all of these things. Mayors are also politicians and partisans,” Ott said.

Ott added that the mayor has a right of veto.

The petition is also criticized by the Austin for All People group.

“This would dramatically change the way the city of Austin is run. In all honesty, it’s a little scary to think about what happens when you have a runaway manager who doesn’t follow the agenda that most Austinites do want, “said Mason Ayer, co-chairman.

Austinites for progressive reform has collected more than 20,000 petition signatures to try to get the point on the ballot. Austin City Council is due to tentatively consider the petition during a special meeting on February 9th.

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