EDITORIAL | So is mayor-council or council-manager better for the city?

Is mayor-council or council-manager a better form of governance?

Here’s a breakdown of cities in Washington State by population and governance for your consideration:

According to the National League of Cities, the council-manager form of government is most common form of government. According to surveys by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), this form of government has grown from 48 percent usage in 1996 to 55 percent usage in 2006. It is most popular in cities with populations more than 10,000, mainly in the Southeast and Pacific coast areas.

Research shows that among the 7,400 or more largest cities in the U.S., about half use council-manager forms of government. Among the other half that uses the mayor-council, city administrators provide oversight and guidance on public policy. Managing a city is too important and municipal chief executive officers or city managers have little interest in politics.

The mayor-council is more popular for smaller cities/towns that have a population of less than 10,000, while the council-manager is more popular among cities more than 10,000.

According to the Municipal Research Service Center (MRSC), there are 228 of Washington’s 281 municipalities under mayor-council. Of the 228 which use the mayor-council, 166 have populations of less than 5,000, including 82 small mayor-council towns that have fewer than 1,000 residents.

The MRSC reports that 52 of the 281 cities are council-manager and 39 out of 52 fall within the 5,000 to 50,000 population range. Among 40 cities with populations between 5,000 to 10,000, one (Shelton) is commission, 12 are council-manager and 27 have mayor-council, according to MRSC.

According to MRSC data, there are 78 cities with 10,000 population and more — 40 are council-manager and 38 are mayor-council.

But there is a fact no one wants to remember. Of the 38 mayor-council cities, 24 have a city administrator, deputy city administrator, city auditor, city supervisor or chief administrative officer working with an elected mayor.

There are 38 cities with populations between 10,000 and 25,000. Of the 38 cities, 18 are under council-manager and 20 are mayor-council. Of the 20 cities which operate under a mayor-council, 14 also have a city administrator that work with the mayor.

Of the 19 cities with populations between 25,000 to 50,000, 11 operate under council-manager and eight (8) under mayor council — with three cities having a city administrator.

Of the 14 cities with a population of 50,000 to 100,000, eight (8) operated under council-manager. Three (3) of the six cities under mayor-council have a city administrator or chief administrative officer.

Of the seven cities with 100,000 population or more, three (Bellevue, Tacoma and Vancouver) have council-manager government. The other four cities (Everett, Kent, Spokane and Seattle) under a mayor-council, three have either a city administrator, city auditor or chief administrative officer.

Overall with cities more than 10,000, 23 of the 38 cities under mayor-council have a city administrator, deputy city administrator, city auditor, city supervisor or chief administrative officer working with an elected mayor.

So is mayor-council or council-manager better for Port Orchard?

The trend as shown above would indicate that council-manager governance is more popular for cities the size of Port Orchard or larger; however, the numbers only tell part of the story. What really works or doesn’t can only be determined by the actual individuals involved in the governance of a city. Voters in Port Orchard will determine what they think is best for their city come election day.

We can only hope that whatever the outcome of the election, that those charged with the task of governing and/or managing our city do so with the voice of the people in mind.


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