Role of mayor debated in one city - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Role of mayor debated in one city

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One of the largest Eastern Iowa cities is looking at the top leadership roles and possibly making changes.

Cedar Falls has been considering a part-time mayor for years.  During recent discussions, city council members noticed what some call over-lapping, and conflicting job description, between the mayor and city administrator. The council is now working to eliminate any overlap.

Discussion on proposed changes during Monday's committee of the whole meeting turned heated, and delayed the regular council meeting.

Cedar Falls City Attorney Kevin Rogers presented his findings after comparing the ordinances that detail the requirements and powers of the mayor and city administrator.  Rogers didn't get far before the proposal to delete the words "full-time" from the mayor's ordinance was suggested by Councilman Nick Taiber.  Mayor Jim Brown and others spoke against the proposal.

"The mayor is up for accountability every two years. We need to trust the voters to put the right person in place each time, just like we have the last 40 years. Our city is doing so well. I don't understand why changes at the highest level of our city leadership are being considered right now," said Mayor Brown.

Eventually, the council recommended that the phrase "full-time" be deleted from the entire ordinance. However, the recommendation did not include any discussion on reducing the mayor to part-time before the coming election.

The council extensively debated the mayor's authority to supervise all departments and give direction. The debate brought a heated exchange between council members Nick Taiber and Susan deBuhr. 

"There is a tremendous risk if the mayor has the ability to tell an inspector to look the other way, for example. . . What is the problem, Susan?" asked Taiber.

"I am sorry. If you had left the first line that he had to enforce all ordinances and follow them, you wouldn't have that problem. The first one, you just eliminated, required that [the mayor] follow the law," laughed deBuhr.

"Susan, I am sorry. I do not understand the comedy here?" asked Taiber.

During the debate, some council members questioned the discussion altogether, and people attending the meeting expressing their concern and confusion.

"I don't know what is going on in this group, but it is not a cohesive group," said resident Rosemary Beach. "You are going to have so many rules, no one can figure it out. It is the job of the mayor to watch over the council and the city. It is the job of the people of Cedar Falls to elect a mayor."

The council ended the committee meeting by recommending several changes to the mayor's job description.  The recommendations were sent back to the city attorney for review before the council votes on the revised ordinance.

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