DIXON – Don’t lose focus on the true meaning of the governmental task force.
The panel hasn’t.
The seven-member task force has asked the question, “What’s the best form of municipal government for Dixon in the future?”
It has recommended the city manager form and will ask the City Council later this month or early next month to put a question on the November 2014 ballot, letting voters ultimately decide whether to stick with the current commission form of government with an administrator, or adopt the city manager form.
Never did it set out to prove the commission form was broken – nor was it required to.
The task force is convinced a city manager is the best way to govern Dixon in the future. Period.
The committee, however, came to a conclusion that a city cannot operate in the 21st century without a professionally trained administrator. The council already has decided to hire one.
In fact, task force members have said several times that city government can work both in the manner Dixon is headed and with a city manager. The Rev. Michael Cole has even said a vote would be similar to asking citizens to decide between option 1a and 1b, seeing each choice as viable.
So, if it’s not broke, why fix it?
As task force member Tom Shaw, who also is the chief executive officer of Shaw Media, parent company of Sauk Valley Media, put it: State statutes keep the power in the hands of voters to control their form of government.
If the city manager form of government is adopted, it could be abolished only by another referendum of voters.
While the current City Council may believe in the direction its headed, a future council could eliminate the job of administrator and undo the very element the task force deemed essential: the administrator.
The task force also liked that state statutes give clear authority to the administrator to operate city departments and focus more on policymaking.
The rhetoric in town has focused on pointing a finger at the commission form as out of date. Two residents speaking during public comments at the task force’s evening meeting said “it’s time to move into the 21st century” with the city manager form.
That rhetoric has caused others to defend the city’s current government.
Mayor Jim Burke wrote a guest column for Sauk Valley Media on Aug. 1, defending the form against a July 20 SVM editorial “No mistake about it. Dixon system broke.”
While these arguments have their place, don’t let them fog the real question.
“What’s the best form of municipal government for Dixon in the future?”
In the end, that’s the only question that really matters.