Letter to the Editor

I am writing this letter to alert the citizens of Oakland to a possible major change in our local government. You might have seen the Board of Mayor and Alderman’s report in last week’s paper where the proposal from the recently convened Charter Committee was given as part of the business before the board.
In the interest of disclosure, I have made the decision to be a candidate for the office of mayor if that is still an option in the future. The Charter Committee proposed changing our town government to a “council-manager” form of government. I object to this change for the following reasons:
1) First and foremost is that the citizens have not been given a voice in this process. This process has been rushed through and should not be passed without citizen involvement.
The vast majority of residents are not even aware that this process is under way nor the extent of the proposed changes. I am very aware of most happenings in this town and was shocked to learn this past week of the proposal to change to the “manager-council” government.
If I was not aware most people would not know. Something of this magnitude should be given the time and opportunity for all who would want to have a say in the outcome to share their opinion. It has been almost 100 years since the first mayor took office in Oakland and while there have been some bumps and bruises we are still in a much better position than a lot of towns of similar size and makeup.
To rush into a massive change in the structure of our government would be reckless and uncalled for. I recommend slowing this process down and give the people the opportunity to be educated on the pros and the cons of this proposal and to do this in the form of town halls. This should be considered for a referendum by the town residents rather than a simple vote by the alderman.
2) In this proposal the residents of Oakland will lose the ability to elect their mayor. The alderman will elect the mayor from amongst their ranks and will hire the manager. The manager’s whole loyalty will be strictly to those who hire him/her.
Where is the demand for this change coming from? Why now and why the rush. This committee was convened in August and two months later, with little public knowledge or input, it is coming before the board for a vote. Some will say that the meetings for the committee were advertised. Was the agenda advertised?
I assume legal hurdles were cleared but again something as monumental as removing the top elected position in our town government from a vote by the citizens should be given time and opportunity for public input.
3) Finally, our town government is structured similar to our federal and state government.
There are checks and balances in place already. The biggest being communicating with the citizens to your vision and enlisting their help in moving an idea through the process.
It is not the fault of the citizens if this is not used and things get stagnant. Our Founder’s design for government is not the problem, the people running the government are the problem where any exist. Arbitrarily changing the structure will not be the answer. Electing a leader with the experience and vision to help this town become the model for this area is what is needed.
Please encourage your Mayor and Alderman to at the minimum give time for public education and discussion. The citizen’s decision should be respected by all.
Reggie Howard
Fayette County Commissioner
District 4