by BJ Murphy
Mayor, City of Kinston
There is a fundamental question before the Kinston voters this Tuesday — do you want your mayor to be a ceremonial figurehead who cuts ribbons or do you want your mayor, the chief elected official, to have a formal say in our local democratic system?
Remove the personalities, stereotypes and false claims out of the equation and you will find the innocence of the checks and balances argument. The framers of the Constitution argued for checks and balances to stop, or at least slow down, the steamrolling of the majority’s stranglehold on the branches of government to protect the minority and its value to our free society.
The mayor of Kinston is not elected by the city council, but by the people, and therefore the mayor does act, or should act, as a separate institution of our government similar to the president and governor. We should elect these government CEOs with the full confidence that with the oath of office comes a huge responsibility to govern judiciously for both the majority and minority.
And yes, the mayor does have the responsibility of consensus-building among the community and council. But what is consensus building when there is no power to act?
The intent of the mayoral veto is to allow our community, not just the council, to pause and reflect on the consequences of their actions. Sometimes you the citizen, voter and taxpayer are the minority when quick rubber-stamping occurs at City Hall. And without some mechanism in place like the mayoral veto, the status quo will continue.
Several questions have been floated by some with clear indication to confuse people. Summing up answers to those objections boils down to about four answers: the legislation to change the city charter was approved by the N.C. General Assembly to be voted on by the citizens of Kinston, the mayor pro tem has all the powers and duties the mayor has in his absence, the council can override any veto with a four-fifths majority, and the mayor abides by the same code of ethics approved by the council.
Anyone can count on one hand the number of absent council members in the past few years. We continue to be blessed by elected members who take their duties seriously, if nothing else than by simply showing up.
I certainly will ask you to vote for the mayoral veto referendum to bring checks and balances to the City of Kinston. But, regardless of Tuesday’s outcome of the mayoral veto referendum, you will not see any difference in the passion for Kinston, respect for constructive disagreements, and hope for a greater Kinston from this mayor or any future mayor.
And that is a small example of what makes our democratic society the greatest nation in the world.
B.J. Murphy is the mayor of Kinston. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions of the guest columnist are not necessarily those of The Free Press.
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