The 2023 election cycle has been relatively quiet in challenges to the form of government. This past November, ICMA was engaged with only two jurisdictions where form of government was on the ballot. Gunter, Texas, voted to change from council-manager to mayor-council and Weddington, North Carolina, failed in its efforts to change from mayor-council to council-manager.
- Gunter, Texas: Voters chose to rescind the council-manager form of government adopted in 2017 and turn back to the mayor-council form of government. Residents initiated a special election arguing that due to its population as a city of under 5,000 residents, there was no need for a city manager.
- Weddington, North Carolina. Although the Weddington City Council sought to change to a council-manager form of government via resolution, residents forced a referendum vote to determine the matter. The measure to adopt the council-manager form failed with 79.93% of voters rejecting the change. Weddington remains a mayor-council form of government.
On the Radar
While the upcoming 2024 presidential election cycle will garner most of the political attention and campaign capital, there are a number of municipalities engaged in charter reviews that ICMA is keeping an eye on so that we are able to inform decisions.
- Cambridge, Massachusetts: The charter commission has expressed interest in recommending a change from council-manager to mayor-council citing the notion that an elected mayor gives greater power to the people than an appointed city manager. The problem with this argument is that, as a representative democracy, a shift to mayor-council vests greater power in the mayor, not the people. Once the mayor is elected, there is little recourse to make changes in the event the mayor fails to perform as the people expect. Conversely, the people have the ability to pressure their elected representatives to city council to remove an underperforming city manager.
- Dallas, Texas: The city of Dallas has appointed a charter commission that will offer recommendations for potential changes to the city charter. ICMA was invited to meet with commissioners, councilmembers, and staff to answer specific questions regarding charter amendment considerations.
- Lansing, Michigan: Voters authorized the city to revise the city charter for the first time since 1978. Lansing residents will elect a charter commission via special election in 2024. They will have three years to study the charter and recommend a new city charter, which must receive final approval from the voters.
- Tarrant, Alabama: The city council passed a resolution to hire a city manager and grant executive authorities in the administration of government. The mayor has filed a legal complaint, which will be heard to determine whether the council has the power to establish the position by resolution or if there must be a change to the form of government by referendum.
Need form-of-government assistance?
ICMA provides information, presentations, and other support to individuals and organizations interested in promoting professional management and the council-manager form of government. Contact Jason Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about donating to ICMA’s Future of Professional Management Fund.
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