Canton adopts a new charter that expands mayor's powers
by Kristal Dixon
kdixon@cherokeetribune.com
April 20, 2012 07:13 PM | 2428 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — The Canton City Council has adopted what advocates call an improved city charter that grants the mayor expanded powers.

After more than a year of discussion and meetings, the council on Thursday voted 5-0 to approve the revisions to the city charter. Councilman Bob Rush was not present.

The changes go into effect immediately according to Council member Glen Cummins, who since taking office in January has led the charge on the council to get the revisions in place.

Cummins said the changes are a “significant step forward.”

“It balances government so much better between the council, the mayor and the city manager than the old charter,” he said. “It’s a great step forward.”

The mayor, who under the revised charter is now the chief executive officer of the city government, will have the ability to veto ordinances passed by the council.

Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood described the change as only a delaying tactic because those items that were vetoed would be considered for review during the next regular council meeting.

The council would also have the ability to override the veto at the next meeting, under the proposed changes.

Under the present charter the council does not have aquorum without the mayor’s presence and, therefore could not conduct business.

The changes adopted Thursday allow the mayor pro tem to run the meetings in the mayor’s absence.

The duties of the mayor now include presiding at City Council meetings, breaking tie votes on the City Council and appointing committees.

Under the old charter the mayor only had the power to hire employees for his personal staff subject to the approval of the council.

The changes grant the office of mayor some additional powers and duties that are typically found in the strong mayor-weak council form of government, which are mainly found in larger cities such as Atlanta and Savannah.

Hobgood said he was pleased with the outcome.

“While it’s not a perfect document, it’s much improved over what we’ve had in the past,” he added.

Other powers include allowing the mayor to form a committee to review qualified city manager candidates, conduct inquiries and investigation into city affairs, prepare an agenda for council meetings and to nominate members of boards, commissions and authorities, a city attorney and city clerk.

It also calls for the mayor and the city manager to conduct bi-weekly meetings to review affairs in the city

While some of the changes mirror the strong-mayor form of government, Canton, along with Ball Ground, Woodstock and Holly Springs, has a council-manager form of government, one of the two most popular forms of local governments in Georgia.

While Ball Ground has a council-manager form of government, its charter grants the office of mayor duties that resemble a strong mayor — weak council form of government.

In the council-manager form of government, the council hires a city manager to carry out the day-to-day operations of the city.

The manager also has the authority to hire and fire department heads, reports directly to the City Council and prepares the city budget.

Hobgood added the revisions “clearly delineate the duties and powers of city manager, the mayor and council.”

In other business, the council also voted 4-1, with Councilman John Beresford opposing, to use an additional $100,000 toward hiring additional city firefighters.

The money will come from savings the city will gain from switching its property and casualty insurance from GIRMA to OneBeacon.

Councilman Hooky Huffman argued for the proposal, noting the city needs to begin the process of hiring more firefighters to protect its citizens.

The Canton City Council also:

* Approved a waiver for the Cherokee County School District for water and sewer tap fees for its new middle school on Reservoir Drive;

* Approved its special event alcohol permit ordinance, which establishes a process to obtain a permit to serve alcohol during special events in a designated section.

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