Should Madison Change its Form of Government?
Updated: Jun 19, 2022
This is a question the citizens of Madison are asking themselves, and it's one they'll need to answer in the coming months.
Attend the community meeting on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 from 6-7:30 pm to learn more about a possible transition and to ask questions
Watch the work session video of the Transition Committee's findings
Read the committee's final report
Visit the city's Governance Transition page
Find out what questions and concerns citizens have about the possible transition
Madison City leaders have been considering making the move from a mayor-council form of government to a council-manager form of government (manager as in city manager). The mayor assembled a Governance Transition Committee last year to research and make a recommendation. The Governance Transition Committee researched over a period of months and then presented it's findings to Mayor Finley and city council in January of this year. The committee unanimously agreed that Madison should move to a council-manager form of government.
The Transition Committee appointed by the mayor unanimously agreed that Madison should move to a council-manager form of government.
What is a city manager?
A city manager is an upper level city employee that manages the administration/day-to-day-operations of a city. Currently, Mayor Finley is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations in addition to other mayoral duties.
What would a city manager mean for Madison's government?
If a council-manager form of government is chosen, the mayor will also become a council member and serve as council president. The mayor would still be elected by the entire city (an at-large council member). Since it is optimal to have an odd number on city council, the city would move from the current 7 districts down to 6 (6 districts plus the mayor, a new council member).
When asked by Councilperson Ranae Bartlett what he would be able to do with a city manger that he could not do now, Mayor Finley said he could spend more time in the community as well as more time planning, working with other municipalities, and meeting with legislators at higher levels.
I Vote Madison attended the work session to listen to the governance transition committee's findings and recommendations. Here are our main takeaways:
The citizens of Madison will ultimately decide whether the city transitions to a council-manager form of government or remains the same. The city will begin conducting community outreach/education efforts with a meeting on June 22, 2022, but the process only continues if 900 residents sign a petition in favor of the change. Citizens then have their say by way of a special city-wide election. If a majority of Madison citizens vote to transition to a council-manager form of government, the shift will take place in 2025. The municipal elections in 2024 will be different ahead of this shift as there would only be 6 district council members and 1 council member (the mayor) serving at large for the city. Redistricting would have to occur in Madison before the 2024 elections.
Why 900 signatures? This number represents 10% of voter turnout from the last Madison municipal elections. If the people of Madison voted in greater numbers, more people would have a say in whether the transition process moves forward. Your vote counts!
If more Madison residents had voted in the last municipal election, greater citizen input would be required in order to move forward with governance transition process. Your vote counts!
Madison is growing, and this rapid growth is the main reason the Madison City Governance Transition Committee determined that a city manager is the best choice for Madison.
Continuity and Professionalism
According to the Transition Committee, a city manager would provide continuity. The city manager would be an appointed position, so the person hired could remain in that role for years. When presenting the pros and cons, the Transition Committee members who were present when the recommendations were given said the only con of moving to a council-manager type of governance would be if the wrong person was hired for that role. They relayed that a city manager who fits well within the culture of the city and who doesn’t try to compete with the mayor and council for power would be necessary. As for professionalism, the committee members said a city manager would have the professional credentials and skills necessary to manage a city the size of Madison even if a newly-elected mayor did not.
The Transition Committee highlighted that a city manager could carry out the daily administration of the city with fewer politics. When they talked with city department heads, those employees found a city manager favorable for this reason. Department heads also liked the clearer chain of command a city manager form of government would provide.
A community meeting is being held in City Council Chambers on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 from 6-7:30 pm to discuss the possible governance transition. District 5 Councilperson Ranae Bartlett will moderate the meeting. Attendees will receive information and will be able to ask questions during the meeting. Jim Ross, the head of the Governance Transition Committee will be providing information and fielding questions. The city managers from both Vestavia Hills and Mountainbrook will also be there to answer questions about the role of a city manager. Citizens can also submit questions ahead of time and watch the meeting via livestream on the city's website.