Putting personalities aside, as they should be, the election in Irvine on Tuesday to decide whether the city's mayor ought to be selected by the people or the City Council poses nothing new in the traditional arguments over the elective process versus the appointive.
In the appointive approach that prevails now in Irvine and 20 other Orange County cities, the city council picks a member to serve as mayor rather than allowing voters to do that. The traditional argument against the council selection, and it's a valid one, is that the selection process often involves political deals and trade-offs for votes and sometimes even unfairly passes over well-qualified council members for petty political reasons.
Opponents of moving the selection from the council to the voters fear that a mayor elected by the people will feel more important and more powerful than one appointed by the rest of the council, and that electing someone to the post could ultimately lead to a full-time mayor.
In the past, we too have worried about those possibilities, but as a practical matter, we see no evidence of that happening in the five cities in Orange County where direct mayoral elections are held. In every local community where the possibility of a full-time mayor has been raised, the idea has been rejected because no community in the county is either big enough to warrant that kind of local government or ready to abandon the council-manager form of government that has proven itself so efficient.