A Tuesday night discussion on whether Orem should have a full-time mayor left the City Council with plenty of questions and no answers.
The debate started on whether the city should keep its present form of government - council/city manager - but change the mayor's position from part to full time. The discussion then wandered over to whether Orem should opt for a mayor/council government and eliminate the city manager.Council members discussed whether they should formally ask citizens what they wanted, and if that should be done with a special election or through public hearings. Several motions died in 2-2 votes with the mayor abstaining.
"I wouldn't want to take these people to Baskin-Robbins and ask them to choose a flavor," said one weary audience member said.
Mayor Blaine Willes described his schedule to give council members some background.
"Last week I had to take Monday and Tuesday off from work as vacation days so I could deal with city business. I will take a half day vacation tomorrow. Thursday I will go in early so I can leave early and spend some time working for Orem in the afternoon."
Willes said he holds positions on about 10 boards, many requiring his time during the day. Several nights a week are needed for board meetings and council duties, and he spends much of every day and night answering citizens' calls and conducting city business over the phone.
"I feel like I spend all the time I have to resolve things that are forced upon me rather than spending time on pertinent and significant issues."
Willes said he serves on the boards in order to increase the city's credibility, its voice in issues that affect it and his knowledge of important issues.
"I don't believe someone who must earn a living can do this job, in a city this size, in a complex world, as a part-time mayor. Orem has grown and so has its needs.
"Maybe someone who was independently wealthy could do it, but most people would not have the time to give the job (while holding another job)."
Willes said he would not discuss the issue further or vote to make the mayor's position full time because many people had accused him of trying to "grease his own wheels" - use his position to help himself. Willes said he will not be mayor forever, and he wished the council would look beyond the person presently in the job and decide what is in Orem's best interest for the future.
Willes had previously suggested making the mayor's position full time without changing the city's form of government. After listening to Willes speak, Councilman Kelvin Clayton asked if Orem's growth and increased needs meant it was time to go to a mayor/council form of government like Provo has.
Willes said he was done commenting on the issue because after previous comments he "took so much personal flack, and life is too short to suffer undeserved abuse."
Paul Johnson, city attorney, told council members they had the authority to make the mayoral position full time without an election, but changing to another form of government would require an election. The council discussed holding a special election to gather opinions before deciding the full-time mayor issue, buta motion to do so died after a tie vote with the mayor abstaining.
A motion to hold public hearings on either a full-time mayor or a change in Orem's form of government ended with the same vote totals. The council then voted unanimously to continue the discussion to its May 9 meeting.
A special election to ask voters if they want a full-time mayor or a change in governmental form would take 30 to 45 days to arrange and would cost between $5,000 and $7,000, said City Manager Daryl Berlin. Several council members expressed the desire to settle the issue before the August filing deadline for mayoralcandidates.