UNION — The voters of the City of Union voted this past Tuesday to change the city’s form of government from mayor-council or “Strong Mayor” to council or “Weak Mayor.”
What does that mean?
In 2017, Union City Council voted to put the following question to the voters of Union in a referendum that would be held Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018:
Shall the municipal government of Union change its form of government from the mayor-council form to the council form?
It was a yes or no question and this past Tuesday the answer was yes with 312 voters supporting the change and 221 opposed.
The results of Tuesday’s referendum were certified Friday by the City of Union Municipal Commission which met in the City Clerk’s office in the City of Union Municipal Building.
With the certification of the results, the city’s form of government will change from mayor-council form to council form as of July 1 when the city’s 2017-2018 fiscal year begins.
What does that mean?
The meaning is contained in the alternative names for the two forms of government. The mayor-council form is also known as the “Strong Mayor” form because under it the mayor, according to the Municipal Association of South Carolina website (www.masc.sc), is “the chief administrative officer of the municipality” with a wide array of powers.
The council form of government is also known as “Weak Mayor” because under it the mayor does not have all the powers he or she does under the Strong Mayor form. Instead, under the council or Weak Mayor form of government, “all legislative and administrative powers of the municipality and the determination of all matters of policy shall be vested in the municipal council. Each member of council, including the mayor, shall have one vote.”
In other words, under the council form city council, not the mayor, serves as the “chief administrative officer” of the city, wielding the wide array powers that are wielded by the mayor in the mayor-council form.
This means that with the change approved by voters Tuesday the executive and administrative power — and the accompanying responsibility — for the day to day operations of municipal government in the City of Union shift decisively from the mayor as an individual officeholder to the city council as a collective governing body. The question now is, will city council, once the transition is made from mayor-council to council form of government, exercise its new power and authority to, for example, hire an administrator? What, if any, other changes will they make? What, if any, new policies will they implement? What, if any, old policies will they discard?
For the answer to those and any other questions that may arise during and after the transition from the mayor-council system to the council system of government, see upcoming editions of The Union Times and our website (www.uniondailytimes.com) and Facebook page.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.