UNION — Even though the power and responsibility for the day to day operations of the municipal government of the City of Union officially shifted from the Office of the Mayor to Union City Council this past Sunday the mayor is still overseeing those operations as he did before the beginning of this week.
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 on Jan. 9 the answer was yes with 312 voters supporting the change and 221 opposed.
When voters approved the change of government — which took effect Sunday — they shifted the executive and administrative power — and the accompanying responsibility — for the day to day operations of municipal government in the city from the mayor as an individual officeholder to the city council as a collective governing body.
The power shift occurred because under the mayor-council or “Strong Mayor” form 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.
Under the council or “Weak Mayor” form, however, 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, as of Sunday, city council, not the mayor, is the “chief administrative officer” of the city, wielding the wide array powers that are wielded by the mayor in the mayor-council form.
Council met in special session Thursday to approve second and final reading of the ordinance implementing the change in the form of government approved by the voters in January.
Even though council voted unanimously to implement the change in the form of government and even though the change has taken place, Mayor Harold Thompson has nevertheless continued to oversee the operations of the city just like he did before Sunday.
This does not, however, contravene the change of the form of government, because the mayor can still oversee the day to day operations of municipal government under the council form, the only difference being is that he is doing it at the direction of council.
District 4 Councilman Ricky Harris supported the change in the form of government, pointing out that Union previously had the council form of government. He also pointed out that under the council form the mayor would continue to perform his traditional duties under the direction of council, something he said had happened before.
“Under the council form, the mayor will still perform the administrative duties as directed by council and serve in a traditional capacity,” Harris said in January. “The mayor’s position will act and vote as a member of council but will not have additional legislative power above what council has. Other municipalities the size of Union operate under this form of government — we previously operated this way.”
In other business, council voted unanimously to allocate $2,070 to the Carolina Community Actions Community Services Block Grant Youth Leadership Program.
The funding was requested by CCA Executive Director Karen Brackett Browning who explained that the program is for 11 weeks, including six weeks of “direct interaction (education/training and work experience) with students.” Browning wrote that the object of the program “is to enhance the student’s ability to realize academic, behavioral and social achievements. The youth will learn to foster appropriate/positive relationships, develop/improve life skills and obtain work experience.” She added that “CCA will utilize a case management approach to provide character education training; provide employment skills training; and provide work experience placements with area community partners.”
In making her request for the funding, Brown explained that the requested “is based on total program participation of four students.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.