The new Tait Majority has larded this evening’s City Council agenda with numerous policy shifts, while the populace is distracted by fast approaching Christmas. One of them would once again allow the mayor to place items on the council agenda t any time, unilaterally and out of the public eye.
In late 2013, the council voted to end that power. Instead, the mayor would henceforth have to place matters on the agenda the same way as every other council member: in public during the council comments portion of the meeting. That way, everyone knows what is coming and is on the same page.
The media have by-and-large bought into the false narrative that this was an unprecedented assault on the power of the mayor. The reality is Tom Tait was the first Anaheim mayor to have this formal power. Previous mayors had the ability to agendize items between meetings, but it was informal and seldom used. Mayor Tait exercised that power frequently.
It’s understandable he wants it back, but to what problem is it a solution? Does the absence of this formal power hamper the ability of the mayor – present and future – to carry out his or her duties? In what way? Are there examples during the past three years in which city government failed to function or the public interest suffered because Mayor Tait needed more than ____ days to add something on the agenda? Truth be told, the actions of the mayor and his allies belie their claims he needs this power restored: they were able to cram more than a dozen significant policy matters onto tonight’s agenda less than a week ago using the current system.
Some might claim he needs it to deal with emergency situations, but the city charter grants the mayor the power to call an emergency council meeting. Readers may recall how in 2012, Mayor Tait called an emergency council meeting office in order to give the OCCORD/UNITE-HERE activists the opportunity to speak against the GardenWalk deal that had been approved a few days earlier.
Furthermore, if something is truly urgent but not quite meriting an emergency council meeting, nothing prevents the city manager from putting the matter on the agenda. It happens all the time.
The bottom line is there is no compelling policy or governance reason to restore this authority to the office of the mayor. There is no problem that it solves. The only change would be empowering the mayor to slip things onto the agenda with little public notice; given past criticisms from the mayor and his supporters, the public has been given to believe that is a bad thing.