DIXON – Most City Council members are not ready to respond to the governmental task force’s recommendation. Not yet.
The panel will ask the City Council later this month to put a referendum on the November 2014 ballot asking: “Shall the city of Dixon adopt the managerial form of municipal government?”
A City Council vote is one of two ways the question can reach the ballot. Another is if 10 percent of the number of people who voted in the mayoral election petition to put it on there.
The seven-member task force, appointed by Mayor Jim Burke at the council’s approval, completed its formal recommendation Wednesday and delivered it to each council member for review.
The committee, which has met 15 times since May 1, is charged with recommending the best form of government for Dixon. It will present the recommendation formally at a special meeting either Aug. 26 or 29, then will ask to be disbanded.
“We believe that there is no greater decision a community can make than to decide its desired form of government,” the task force wrote in its recommendation. “Therefore, we urge the mayor and commissioners to allow the citizens the opportunity to make this vital decision by putting this on a referendum in November 2014.”
The recommendation also commends the council for hiring an administrator, “a huge step in the right direction,” but says “a better choice for the future of Dixon is to put in place a council/manager form of government.”
The commission form, which Dixon now has, leaves the interpretation of the administrator’s job in the hands of elected officials, while a city manager’s duties are set by state law, among other differences.
Commissioners Dennis Considine and Jeff Kuhn both said they will need to review the recommendation before giving an answer.
Considine also will speak with residents to determine how they feel about the ballot proposition, he said. He abstained from voting when the task force was selected.
Although he admits he leans toward trusting the task force’s recommendation, Burke said he is not going to rush to a decision because of the time it spent studying the issue.
“I want to see how the city administrator works out,” the mayor said. “If we didn’t have plans to hire an administrator [this fall], I’d say this thing would be a slam dunk, but if things are going as smooth as lemon pie with an administrator, why should we junk the thing to go to a city manager?”
Commissioner David Blackburn did not respond to an email Wednesday, but he has said at past meetings that the citizens of Dixon ultimately should decide the form of government.
Commissioner Colleen Brechon did not return a phone call Wednesday.
Other points the task force made in its recommendation:
— If the ballot proposition passes, it is members’ understanding that the city could retain its current department structure and have an election of a mayor and four at-large council members, with staggered terms.
— The City Council should continue to appoint the city treasurer and city clerk.
— The managerial form allows council members to place their primary focus on the economic growth and development of the community. The city’s day-to-day operations would be placed under the management of a professional with the abilities and skills to handle the complexities of a municipal government.
If the city becomes a managerial government, council members should serve on standing committees, such as personnel, strategic planning, economic development, etc. This will ensure a strong engagement in the city’s operations.
—All governing members and all city employees should embrace a set of ethical standards, the recommendation says. It urges the present mayor and commissioners to create a code of ethics.
— A training program should be developed for newly elected council members.