Thursday, April 9, 2009

New Mayor vs. Old Mayor

I am in a unique position to make some casual observations about differences I see in the administrations of former Mayor Douglas Wilder and our new Mayor Dwight C. Jones.

Granted these observations are being made only 100 days into the Jones Administration. To date, Mayor Jones' chief accomplishment is the creation of a two year budget [ get the 17 MB 400 page PDF ]. Proposed $629.6 million for the Fiscal Year 2010 beginning July 1, 2009; and $636.5 million the following year. The current fiscal year budget that was just formally adopted on March 23 is $655.3 million.

Mayor Wilder took a more assertive and confrontational tone with the Council. Gone are the days of long speeches delivered from the pulpit of Council Chambers' floor. I've got to admit it was entertaining, but it was also a waste of money, and no way to conduct a government.

A distinct policy change with the new Mayor is improved communication between department heads and the Council and more openness for directors to speak with reporters and citizens. Mayor Wilder had restricted Council's ability to speak directly with department heads and all questions were to be directed through Linwood Norman, Wilder's Press Secretary. It was a ridiculous policy but it was implemented. At the end of his term, sometimes members of the Administration were not even present at Council committee meetings to present legislation that was being sponsored by Mayor Wilder.

Another notable difference is that no top staffer such as Chris Beschler [Acting CAO], Michael Terry [Acting CFO], Suzette Denslow [Mayor Jones Chief of Staff], or David Hicks [Jones' Senior Policy Advisor] has yet emerged as a strong surrogate for Mayor Jones. In the Wilder Administration, Kim Neal [Wilder's Senior Policy Advisor] and Harry Black [Wilder's Chief Financial Officer and Acting Chief Adminstrative Officer] often presented reports to the City Council and advised the Council of the Wilder Administration's positions.

Mayor Jones is also doing a good job meeting with Council members' constituents at Town Hall meetings. I have seen him at a couple of neighborhood events. And he is always willing to take questions.

If you have some memories of the Wilder administration or impressions of the Jones' Administration, leave a comment.

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