Syracuse officials redefine powers and duties

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 2:04 PM

Antone Clark

SYRACUSE — After months of deliberation, city leaders have approved a new version of Title II of the city code, which outlines the duties and responsibilities of the mayor and council and corrects an alleged error in a similar process from several years ago.

Four members of the city council voted Tuesday night to adopt version B of the revised Title II, following almost an hour of detailed discussion.

The vote corrects passage of a similar code in 2010. That vote was in error, City Attorney Will Carlson said, because some minor adjustments to mayoral power required either a unanimous vote of the council (it passed 4-1) without the mayor’s support, or a majority vote with the mayor’s affirmative vote. Mayor Jamie Nagle was not among those who voted in favor of the code change in 2010.

The vote for the new adopted code was 4-0. Councilman Doug Peterson was not present for the meeting.

Council members and Nagle have discussed the proposed changes for months, and the issue finally was brought to a public hearing and vote.

The 28-page document refines some of the language regarding the function and duties of the mayor and the council. Carlson outlined 14 powers or duties related to the office as part of background materials on the debate. Those powers range from keeping the peace to recommending any measure for consideration the mayor considers to be in the best interests of the municipality.

One focal point of discussion Tuesday was the difference between a special meeting and an emergency meeting. In the past there has been some irritation on the part of council members about the need to work through the mayor’s office to get items on the agenda, or to get access to information from city staff.

The newest code revision has it roots in a historic struggle over the powers of elected officials in local government, going back before Nagle or current council members took office.

Under the city’s old form of government, the mayor was the chief executive officer of the city. Unhappy with some of the actions of the mayor, in 2006 the council voted to change that setup and to give management of city staff to the city manager.

At that time, residents circulated a petition asking that the change be reversed until a referendum. The council refused and legal action was initiated against the city, alleging the change was unconstitutional. The judge ruled in favor of the citizens. Ironically, in 2007 voters voted to support a measure to shift some powers from the mayor to the city manager.

The duties and powers of elected officials were then put into Title I, which was eventually revised into Title II.

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