ITHACA, N.Y.—The long-discussed City Manager position seems more and more likely to come before the public for a referendum in November 2022, depending on Common Council giving final approval to the parameters of the position at its next meeting.
The legislation to create the position has been mulled for months after Mayor Svante Myrick introduced the idea in January 2021, including last week’s Common Council meeting which included a lengthy discussion of job responsibilities and the new definitions of City Manager and Mayor. Essentially, the mayorship would become a more ceremonial role, albeit with a voting position on Common Council, while City Manager would become CEO of the city, in effect, by overseeing department heads, developing budgets and more.
The city manager would be appointed by Common Council and would serve at its pleasure, though the legislation also mentions a potential four- or five-year contract. They would undergo a yearly job review process.
More details became clear throughout the meeting, including that there will no longer be veto power vested to the mayor. While the veto had very rarely been used in Ithaca, Alderperson Donna Fleming explained that the new structure will effectively make the mayor more integrated into Common Council, including becoming a voting member, and leaving veto power with the mayor would create a vast imbalance of power among the legislative body.
“It wouldn’t make sense that any time the mayor might be in a 6-5 minority, the mayor would also have the ability to veto the whole thing,” Fleming said. “That’s the trade-off, the mayor becomes a member of Common Council but loses veto power.”
City Attorney Ari Lavine also stated that the procedure for passing laws would be slightly different, as they will require public hearings before they are approved into law.
Council seems poised to approve the proposed ordinance, which would then be subject to a public referendum next year. If it passed, the search for a city manager would take place in 2023, and whoever is selected would be installed at the beginning of 2024. This means that, contrary to comment sections here and around the city, the manager may never actually work under Myrick if the current mayor decides against running again or loses his next election in 2023.