Q&A – Is It Better To Have Directly Elected Mayors Or Appointed Mayors?

Today’s entry: #Broward Commissioners will discuss placing a proposed referendum establishing a countywide elected Mayor on the Nov 2020 ballot. If approved, the proposal would establish the Mayor as a Charter Office elected countywide in Nov 2022. I think this is akin to popular voting for senators with the 17th amendment... bad idea.

@brianmuddradio what say you? Will this dumb down or deepen the local involvement in government.

Bottom Line: This is a really good question with a subjective conclusion. Broward and Palm Beach Counties currently use the same approach to county management. Residents elect commissioners and the commissioners choose a mayor to serve a one-year term. This stands in contrast to Miami-Dade where the county’s mayor is directly elected and serves a full-term. Broward is potentially set to let residents decide if they’d like the direct “strong-mayor” approach. So, what about it? Is it a good idea? Should all counties be run with a directly elected mayor? Here’s food for thought. 

At the onset, I need to say that the facts I’m about to present are approximations based on what I was able to derive from recent elections and actions taken by South Florida’s county governments. To your question about whether a directly elected mayor would increase civic engagement. If we measure engagement by voter turnout the answer would generally be yes. Overall turnout for South Florida’s local only elections has averaged 12% over the past decade. Elections that haven’t included a mayor on the ballot have averaged 9.5% turnout. Though still paltry, voter turnout is about 26% higher when a mayor is on the ballot. Regarding, outcomes. Directly elected mayors averaged around 6% more policy than commission appointed mayors. What does that mean in context? That’s where it becomes subjective. 

It’s safe to draw these basic conclusions. Adding a mayoral race to local elections will increase voter participation and theoretically civic engagement as well (though there’s no way to specifically measure civic engagement outside of voter turnout). It’s also the case that we’re likely to have more new policy with a directly elected mayor. This is logical as elected mayors have agendas they run on and will want to enact. By being directly elected they have more leverage and influence over a municipality or county and more time to carry out those agendas. Having an annual reset for mayors leaves little room for agenda momentum unless the majority of the commission shares one policy vision. So, is it a good thing? That’s entirely for you to decide.

I’ve always disliked the term “lawmakers” for elected representatives. It implies that unless they’re “making laws”, they’re not doing their job. I’d maintain that much of the best policy is not making new policy. I prefer to error on the side of freedom and that seldom is congruent with new laws. To that end, it comes down to your feelings about your local government. Do you think there’s a need for more aggressive policy change? If you do, you’d probably prefer the direct electing of a county mayor. If you don’t it’d probably be best to leave it alone. But there’s one other dynamic which has been on display this year. The influence of executive actions on the lives of everyone who lives under a mayor’s jurisdiction. We’ve seen how they can impact every aspect of our daily lives. The combination of enhanced voter turnout, along with my perception of the need for maximum accountability for executive actions taken during times of adversity, skews my preference in favor of directly elected mayors. 

Submit your questions using one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Photo by: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

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