SYRACUSE Should Syracuse have a mayor who acts as the chief operating officer or a city manager who acts as the CEO?
It sounds simple enough, but this issue, called "Citizens city referendum No. 1," (not to be confused with voucher referendum) has divided the city like no other controversy in recent years. It's one of two referendums the city's voters are facing on Nov. 6.
Syracuse city currently has the strong-mayor form of government, where the mayor is also the CEO of the city.
The referendum, if passed, will remove the mayor's title of chief executive officer. It changes the title of the officer of city administrator to city manager, who reports to the governing body as whole, rather than the mayor only, and designates the manager as the CEO of the city.
The proposed ordinance also states that the city manager shall review and recommend contracts to the City Council and sign contracts on behalf of the city.
Most cities in Utah operate under the form of government that Referendum 1 is calling for.
"An elected official should be the CEO," Delore Thurgood, former Syracuse mayor said, opposing Referendum No. 1. "It should be someone we can hold accountable."
Thurgood helped overturn the Syracuse City Council's action earlier this year to strip the mayor of his CEO power.
"They violated the constitutional rights of the people," Thurgood said. "The people should be able to vote on it."
Four of the city's councilmen Daniel Hammon, Lurlen Knight, Phillip Orton and Dean Steel remain firmly for the referendum. That's because they feel it offers the most balanced and open form of government.
"There's better accountability," Steel said at a recent debate on the referendum. "Six people are making decisions, rather than one."
Syracuse Mayor Fred Panucci is encouraging residents to vote against the referendum. If the residents don't agree with the mayor's decisions, they can simply vote him out, he said.
• While city referendum No. 1 is stealing most of the attention in town, there is also a "Referendum 2" also unique to Syracuse voters that would amend the city's beer-licensing regulations.
The ordinance was approved in February but is now up for a vote to continue or replace it.
It amends the city's beer licensing regulations by creating a license classification to allow beer consumption on licensed premises. The ordinance requires licensed premises to be located minimum distances from public buildings, parks, playgrounds, libraries, schools and churches. The ordinance also provides regulations for the issuances of such licenses regarding hours of service, permitted activities and applicant qualifications.
A flier supporting the referendum states, "Bring sit-down family restaurants to Syracuse city!" It implies voters will only have fast-food choices if they don't support the referendum.
A brochure in opposition to the referendum states, "Please join us in keeping alcohol sales a safer distance from our children. Voting no will maintain the 600-foot minimum distance for alcohol-vending establishments. Help keep our kids as safe as possible."
Some residents believe restaurants like Winger's , TGI Friday or Macaroni Grill likely won't come to Syracuse unless Referendum 2 passes.
Thurgood said that if the referendum doesn't pass, "it could have an adverse impact on revenue. It may even increase property taxes."
Thurgood said he doesn't drink, but approving the referendum could mean residents don't always have to travel out of town to eat out.
Melva Sine, president of the Utah Restaurant Association, speaking at a City Council meeting earlier this year, said restaurants have to buy all of their alcohol from the state liquor store and are not allowed to make money on alcohol sales.• Syracuse city will have consolidated voting on Nov. 6. All residents will vote at a central location, the community center, 1912 W. 1900 South, east of City Hall.
E-mail: [email protected]