The City Council wants a second opinion before taking a stand on a proposal to change the city's form of government.
A group of residents, led by former state Sen. Brent Overson and former West Jordan Mayor Dennis Randall, believes city residents would be better served with a full-time mayor running the city instead of a hired city manager.The group will solicit signatures on petitions that would put the issue to a vote.
While feelings among council members vary on the benefits of a change, they all agree they would like to hear from a group of about 100 residents, developers and business people identified as "stakeholders" that have taken an interest in city affairs. That group will meet in April.
Overson said he welcomes an opportunity to make his pitch to the stakeholders but urged the council not to weigh its decision on how to participate in the special election campaign based on the stakeholders' opinion.
"Keep one thing in mind," Overson said. "The stakeholders, I believe, were in favor of increased taxes and the road bond." The 1988 proposals for higher taxes and road improvements proved unpopular with a majority of residents.
The council is deliberating the options of standing back and letting the petition process run its course, calling a special election without receiving petitions or adding form of government proposals of its own to the special election ballot.
Overson has expressed confidence his group can collect the approximately 1,300 signatures necessary to put the change of government issue on a special election ballot. He would like to see the election held early enough this spring that potential mayoral and council candidates could prepare themselves for a primary election and the municipal election in November.
"I think you could get 1,300 citizens to sign any petition you passed. A petition is a very poor way of getting citizen input," said Mayor Kristin Lambert. "I have to ask `how much did they really understand about what they were signing."'
With West Jordan's current form of government, the mayor has a vote equal to the four council members but does not have veto power. The council, as a body, directs city policy and oversees the city manager.
Lambert said an education process is needed, and the result might be a number of government options being put on the ballot, not just the mayor/-council form. Overson said he believes an elected mayor would best represent the city's residents and should be paid a salary equivalent to what the city manager is paid, which Lambert said is between $45,000 and $50,000. A chief executive officer is not part of the recommendation, nor is districting the council seats.
Randall said he was frustrated while mayor by city managers who intimidated, and by being excluded from government councils composed of full-time mayors. "I believe the council/manager form of government is very, very wrong."
"This city has consistently been hog tied," Randall continued. "Not because of the time the mayor can serve, but by definition of what the mayor is.