Opinion: “Strong Mayor” Facts to consider 

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This letter is in response to a letter written by Julie Buller on October 7th.

Ms. Buller’s letter contains the following paragraph (emphasis added):

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Mayor Gard’s door is always open and he works hard to make sure the citizen’s voices are heard and he assists with our needs and requests as much as he possibly can in his role as
Mayor. This is the simple and factual definition of a “strong mayor;” a voice for
the people.

This “definition” of “strong mayor” is misleading and had no bearing on the actual facts of the “strong mayor” ordinance Mayor Gard attempted to pass through the City Council in July of 2021.

“strong mayor” Facts

I apologize in advance for the long bullet list, but these are the facts of the ordinance cut
and pasted from publicly available documents. If it had passed ordinance 21-014 would
have given the Mayor of the City of Riverton the following powers:

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  • “superintending control of all officers and affairs of the city” (page 38 emphasis added)
  • In accordance with the appointment powers…the mayor would appoint, with the consent of the council, all department heads and other appointed persons and would have the power of removal of the same from office (Page 38 emphasis added)
  • The mayor shall appoint, with the consent of the council, a city clerk who shall serve such term and for such compensation as the mayor may from time to time determine (Page 42)
  • The mayor shall appoint, with the consent of the council, a finance director who shall serve such term and for such compensation as the mayor may from time to time determine. (Page 42)
  • A person qualified by training and experience shall be appointed as City Engineer by the mayor, with the consent of the council, and shall serve such term and for such compensation as the mayor may from time to time determine. (Page 42)
  • A person qualified by training and experience shall be appointed public works director by the mayor, with the consent of the council, and shall serve such term and for such compensation as the mayor may from time to time determine. (Page 43)
  • The mayor shall appoint a chief of police, with the consent of the council, who shall serve for such term and for such compensation as the mayor may from time to time determine (Page 43)
  • The mayor shall appoint, with the consent of the council, and commission such number of special police officers as may be necessary and shall designate the services and duties, fix the time during which they may serve and the compensation they shall receive… (Page 43 emphasis added)

Again, I apologize for the long list of bullet points, but these are the actual facts of the “strong mayor” ordinance. Again, everything above is public record and I encourage every Riverton Citizen to read the “strong mayor” ordinance before casting your vote for Mayor. Here are some resources: 

The following link is to the City of Riverton website that has the meeting packet for the Council meeting in which the “strong mayor” ordinance was considered. “strong mayor” language starts on page 38. 

The following is a link to the archived video of the “strong mayor” ordinance debate. “strong mayor” discussion starts at 31:26 but Mayor Gard’s remarks start at 1:20:15. 

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Additionally, there are several resources here that discuss various problems associated with regressing back to a “strong mayor” form of city administration. 

Summary 

This ordinance would have allowed every Mayor of Riverton to be able to fire, appoint, and control compensation of every city official and department head of the City of Riverton. The mayor would be able to appoint special police officers and control their compensation and duties. City of Riverton Police officers would answer only to the Chief of Police and the Mayor. The chief of Police would answer only to the Mayor and the Mayor has sole ability to fire, and control compensation for the Chief of Police. 

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It is important to remember that Mayor Gard directed that this ordinance be drafted. Mayor Gard presumably reviewed it. He then presented it to City Council, spoke in favor of it and then voted to pass this ordinance. He has repeatedly pushed for “strong mayor” and has said he still supports it during his campaign. 

Mayor Gard says that this ordinance is to strengthen the “voice of the voter.” Really what it does is gut the power of the City Council, turning our strong city council into a weak city council, and opens the door for some Mayor to abuse these powers at some point in the future. 

Citizen of Riverton, do you think it is a good idea for a single individual, the Mayor or any Mayor, to have this much power in City administration? 

I know I don’t. 

I encourage you to vote for Timothy Hancock for Mayor on November 8th to preserve our Strong City Council. 

JaDell Hovander 

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