Rethink mayor’s position in Aiken

Letter to the editor

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.

Karl Bankert