Vote, vote, vote for Susie. In comes Betty at the door. Betty is a lady and she knows how to vote, so we don't need Susie anymore.
If you are female and grew up in the '60s in Oklahoma, there's a good chance you jumped rope to this chant more than once - jumping in to the swinging ropes when your name was called and jumping out when you weren't "needed" anymore.
It's a bit of a stretch from jump rope to November's ballot, but one of the Tahlequah Charter proposals on the ballot asks whether the mayor ought to have a vote on all matters before the City Council. The outcome of the election on this question will impact the remaining two years of my term. But more than that, it will impact all those future mayors when I'm "not needed anymore" and the next mayor jumps in.
Right now, Tahlequah has what is known as a "weak mayor" system. That means members of the City Council vote on the business before them, but the mayor only votes if there is a tie to break.
As a mayor who wants or needs to influence the priorities and direction of the city, you take one of two roads. The one I prefer is to work with the Council to try to build communication and teamwork. That helps reduce conflict and encourages better understanding of an issue and how it may benefit or possibly harm the city. An alternative path a mayor may choose is to create division within the Council, keeping an equal number of councilors on each side. This effectively helps ensure a tie vote must be broken by the mayor on most key issues, giving the mayor final say on the direction of the city.
Whether we end up on the other side of this election with four councilors or with eight, giving the mayor a vote along with the Council significantly reduces the chance of a tie vote. The incentive to "divide and conquer" the Council is gone, leaving communication and teamwork as the best alternative to influence the direction of the community.
A second consideration is that a mayor without a vote never has to put her money where her mouth is, so to speak. A mayor who cannot vote can comfortably tell the public she is for or against an initiative, but never has to back that up with a publicly recorded vote. Requiring a vote of your mayor helps to keep the honesty level high.
Some question whether giving the mayor a vote automatically changes our form of government to a "strong mayor" style. This is not the case. A "strong mayor" form of government gives full authority for many functions to the mayor, including personnel and budgetary issues. Even if we give our mayor a vote, our "strong council" form of government will still require personnel and budgetary oversight by the Council.
Mayors come and mayors go - but we ought to give them this very important tool to use in accomplishing the goals and initiatives they promised when elected. Your mayor needs a vote.
Sue Catron, former assistant vice president of Business and Finance at Northeastern State University, is mayor of Tahlequah.