Hollister City Council members have set the stage for a monumentally important decision for voters, and one that the electorate should embrace as a step toward progress.
Council members this week put the final stamp to their proposal on the June ballot to have city voters decide whether to elect an at-large mayor chosen by the entire electorate. They approved the resolution to submit ballot questions on the mayor and length of term, either two years or four.
Hollister voters should approve the at-large mayor for an array of reasons, not the least of which is the need to improve a long-antiquated system in place now – which basically gives every council member the chance to be mayor for a year and establishes an inconsistent face and agenda from the leader of the city.
Beyond the fact that rotating the mayoral position is akin to handing out a certificate of achievement that wasn’t earned, the benefits far outweigh any possible detriments, which are hard, if not impossible, to identify.
For one, every year when the council chooses the next mayor in line, that person is voted in by one-fifth of the city’s electorate because just one of five districts pick each council member. The mayor, then, does not truly represent the entire city. The mayor simply represents his or her district and stands in to represent the city.
Additionally, one year is not enough time to create continuity. It is not enough time to get a firm grasp on policy goals or, in many cases, follow through on them. It is not enough time to establish relationships in the business community, both inside and outside the county. Furthermore, two years probably isn’t enough time, either, and we hope voters recognize that four-year terms have proven to be a lot more beneficial than two.
Another connection that lacks due to Hollister’s mayoral musical chairs is the one between staff officials and council members. As things stand, there is little if any accountability for senior staff members. An elected mayor would ideally strengthen the lines of accountability and act as a liaison between the appointed and elected leaders of the city.
Finally, and most important, moving to an at-large mayor would solidify lines of leadership. It would give Hollister one voice. It would better Hollister’s chances of finding a vision and executing on that foresight.