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CF mayor challenges predecessor's column

CF mayor challenges predecessor's column

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A guest column in the Jan. 3 Courier challenged my integrity and communicated various legal inaccuracies, including false statements regarding a mayor’s powers under Iowa law.

The statement “[Full time] mayor should be a decision of the voters, not the mayor alone” is inaccurate for two reasons: First, a mayor has no power to change laws. The mayor enforces the law, recommends changes to it, and can even veto City Council actions before they become law. But only the City Council has the power to change municipal laws; this separation of powers is a basic principle of American government. Second, the Iowa Code prohibits Cedar Falls voters from amending city ordinances via referendum. Only if we changed our form of government to “home rule charter” like Iowa City or Clinton could we hold this kind of referendum. Yes, Cedar Falls could hold a referendum to modify the city charter itself (which appears in City Code Section 2-3), but simply reducing mayor compensation and removing the word “full-time” from Section 2-184 and 2-186 wouldn’t touch the city charter. Even with the above changes, Cedar Falls would retain a “mayor-council” form of government; any claim to the contrary (or that this decision should be handled by referendum) has no basis in fact.

Also deeply troubling is the claim that I had attempted to “slip several critical provisions” past the council last month. The fact is, I prepared a detailed draft of the annual council goals and objectives document for council consideration, with my proposed additions clearly highlighted. The administrator e-mailed that draft to all council members in mid-December for review prior to our Dec. 21 meeting; at least one member simply chose not to read it. And these 43 items proposed no new direction: 13 of them had been approved in goal-setting sessions, 11 expressed existing council sentiments, and the remaining 19 points clarified vague language or linked to partner organizations’ strategic plans, with qualified expressions of support. For example, one item states that Cedar Falls will “support Waterloo’s strategic plan when in the best interest of Cedar Falls.” I’m saddened that a council member would push back on this simple, nonbinding expression of support for our sister city.

The council, staff, citizens, and I are working on a variety of initiatives to foster the principles of good governance. My proposed additions to the council goals and objectives document are designed to increase transparency of the council’s directives to staff, for the sake of public accountability. And my interest in consideration of “part-time mayor” is simply to enable a diverse pool of candidates to run, so we avoid limiting our options to only career-minded politicians. If the people of Cedar Falls (through their City Council) decide to keep the mayor at “full-time” I’ll respect that decision and will faithfully carry out the majority’s will. In the end, that’s what American democracy is all about, and I’m truly grateful and honored to play a leading local part in this democracy as the mayor of Cedar Falls.

Rob Green is mayor of Cedar Falls

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