The mayoral election is over and voters have made their choice quite clear. The differences between the candidates’ approaches to moving Aiken “forward” were well-articulated. Mayor-election Rick Osbon’s approach was resoundingly supported, while that of his well-regarded opponent was not.
So, with all the talk we have heard about “moving forward,” perhaps we can now begin a discussion about how “forward” can be best achieved. To this end, I want to the thank the Aiken Standard for proving its thumbnail description of the “weak-mayor/strong-mayor” models of City government. Hopefully, your readers have taken note of it. Having lived in Aiken for a few years, I do not know how long the “weak-mayor” system has been in place, but it is my strong belief that it is a failure. Basically, this model establishes leadership by committee – never a good idea – and a fundamental violation of sound organizational functionality. Committees are good hiding places. Even worse, the dysfunctional (if not incompetent) committee/Council has further muddied accountability for performance through the use of a number of independent, but intertwined, administrative boards and commissions. Independent? What’s up with that. Who is actually in charge and accountable? The 5-foot debacle is an excellent example of such bureaucratic confusion. Insofar as the office of mayor is concerned, this “weak-mayor” model reduces its role to little more than ribbon-cuttings and issuance of feel-good proclamations. Nope, this is not good. Put me in the “strong-mayor” column. We need a commander, not a committee, to aggressively pursue the public interest and move Aiken forward.
I hope we can count on the Standard to continue a discussion of which of the government models Aiken should embrace if indeed we are committed to “moving forward.” I suggest a series of articles that inform the public of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the two models so that a strong foundation of knowledge can support a decision on which path is best for our city. I also believe it is a civic responsibility of the Standard to lead the discussion. After all, you own the printing press.