KFP Column: Is it time to give the mayor more power?

by Bryan Hanks
Kinston Free Press

Some things bouncing around my noggin on this beautiful pre-spring weekend …

DOES THE MAYOR NEED MORE (OR SOME) POWER? One of the surprising things to me when I had my crash course in city government, Kinston-style, was that the elected mayor of our fair city has virtually no responsibilities other than signing resolutions, breaking ties among the five city council members (which rarely happens) and representing the city at ribbon-cuttings and formal events.

In our city’s form of government, the city manager is arguably the most powerful person in town.

And frankly, that makes little to no sense to me – the mayor is elected by the people, while the city manager is appointed by the city council.

All of this has come to a head in the past few weeks, as Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy has bucked tradition and made stands against the city council – including the un-American forced annexation of portions of Lenoir County, where folks there have loudly stated they don’t want to be a part of Kinston.

In response to Murphy’s actions, the city council has – within their rights – taken away Murphy’s ability to sign council-approved documentation, along with removing him from a U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, a position he held for only a few days.

All this back-and-forth leads me to this question – why doesn’t the mayor have more power? Perhaps it’s time – as our city is moving from the one-party system that has dominated its politics for more than a century – to take some of the power from the city manager and give it to the mayor.

If the position is nothing more than a figurehead, why even have a mayor? It seems a waste of money to me to pay someone to simply be a cheerleader or figurehead.

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