A major reason noted for the alarming increase in dysfunctional cities is ignorance by citizens about their local government. Consider this scenario:
A young, inexperienced person becomes mayor. He seems gifted in community activism (his brother- Erik Skogquist- calls it rabble rousing) and public speaking. The young man refers to himself as having "talent and expertise". He considers himself an up and coming politician. He demands an office in Anoka city hall. Your city manager responds:
1. Of course, let me help you with that. Here are the keys to the building so that you can come and go as you please with no staff around. Plus keys to a nice river view office (the whole council used to use it but since you have usurped and made them irrelevant . . .) We'll furnish that with the best new furniture in the building and of course a phone line so you have "City of Anoka" on the caller ID of the folks you want to call and influence. That will make mayor seem more impressive than what it is: ceremonial head of a five person policy making body. My announced policy will be, "the mayor can do whatever he wants." (Tribune North article on visioning mtgs.)
2. Whoa, young fellow. I need to explain about council/manager govt. You see, you are merely ceremonial. You have no authority beyond your one vote on the council and no power to veto. You have no direct access to staff except for information purposes. You cannot direct staff.
As the city manager, I am the chief advisor to the council. I don't take direction from you in our form of government, but from the council as a body. As the keeper of the Charter, I will be advising and reminding you of the parameters of acceptable activity.
This will be for your own good and will help keep you and the city out of legal and financial trouble.
You won't be needing an office because you have no authority to make decisions, deals, promises, etc. apart from the full council.
The difference between these two choices determine whether:
1. Anoka is true to its charter and regains operation as council/manager form of government which maintains separation of politics and administration. Essential functions of government are carried out by the most qualified, trained, educated professionals that can be hired.
2. Anoka continues to revert to pre-reform government characterized by a corrupt, politically driven system rife with waste, inefficiencies and inequities. The dysfunction becomes increasingly systemic as hires and departments are politically crafted for ease of micromanagement. Think 302 Fremont.
Update: Skogquist, Pierce and Schumacher now wish to take this dysfunction and make it permanent with a charter amendment. This would make permanent the return to pre-reform govt., dysfunctional wards and a strong mayor that may or may not have a clue what he is doing.
Be afraid, Anoka, be very afraid.