Logie GR Needs Full-Time Mayor

March 22, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — In his 10th State of the City address Thursday, Mayor John Logie said it’s time Grand Rapids had a full time mayor and outlined his plan for a new governance structure — a plan he hopes will take the shape of a charter amendment on the November ballot.

Most municipalities are governed under either a “Strong Mayor” or “Council-Manager” structure, and both types of local government have merit, Logie told members of the Rotary Club last week.

The Strong Mayor structure tends to be partisan and resembles that of state government, with an executive and legislative branch. The mayor appoints all administrative heads and, though not seated on the city commission, has veto power of its actions.

Grand Rapids operates under a Council-Manager form of local government in which the city manager is a professional full-time public administrator who oversees day-to-day administration, appoints department heads, initiates and proposes the budget and reports to and serves the City Commission.

The city adopted the Council-Manager form by charter in 1916.

“From the vantage point of my 10 years of experience as the mayor under this form of government, I believe it is time to make a change,” Logie said.

He said after 10 years of juggling the demands of a law practice with the demands of being mayor, he’s convinced a full time mayor is needed “for the health and the future of Grand Rapids.”

Though the $35,000 job of mayor is supposed to be part time, Logie said he’s devoting about 60 percent of his time to it.

What Grand Rapids needs now is a person able to devote 100 percent of his or her efforts on behalf of the citizens of Grand Rapids, he said.

Logie is proposing what he calls a Mayor-Manager-Council form of government that he says would maintain the city manager’s leadership role while creating “a meaningful and positive opportunity” for a full-time mayor.

Mayors of the future, he said, will need more structure and greater opportunity than the current city charter allows if they are to effectively lead a dynamic community.

The mayor’s authority under Logie’s proposal would include, among other things:

**Appointing the city manger, city attorney, clerk and treasurer and initiating the hiring and termination processes, as well as recommending salary adjustments.

**Voting only in case of a tie.

**Having a veto.

**Reviewing the city manager’s budget.

**Determining and recommending major water, sewer, street and public building improvements.

**Making an annual report to the City Commission in addition to an annual State of the City address to citizens.

Logie recalled that if it had not been for the support of his wife and his partners at Warner Norcross & Judd, he would not have been able to run for mayor in 1991. He took an adjustment in his compensation at the firm to pursue his candidacy.

“How many other people here in Grand Rapids, who might be willing to consider public service at the local level, would have such a fortuitous blend of positive circumstances?” Logie asked.

“How many full-time workers could successfully ask their bosses for 60 percent of their expected on-the-job work time off, then have all the variables swing the right way?”

“It makes no sense to me to have the door to the job of mayor open primarily for people of independent wealth, or who have been able to retire and have already accumulated enough financial reserves to give this job the time it needs. Among other things, that’s not very democratic.

“We need to expand this opportunity to the broadest possible range of younger and older individuals.”

Logie said he will work with the City Commission, the city manger and city attorney and others to get all the necessary approvals to put the plan up for a vote as a charter amendment in November.           

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