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A Vote for Irvine's Measure E

November 01, 1987

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.

Irvine's proposed Measure E would not give an elected mayor any more power than any other council member. The mayor's post would still be part time, predominantly ceremonial at ribbon cuttings, luncheons and grand openings and as a public relations voice and image for the city. And an elected mayor poses no more threat to the city-manager form of government than a mayor selected any other way, or any other council member with a propensity for meddling in the city manager's domain.

The idea of electing a mayor is nothing new. It's done in about one out of every four cities in the state, including Anaheim, Garden Grove, Orange, Santa Ana and Westminster.

Last year in an advisory vote, nearly 78% of Irvine's voters endorsed electing the city's mayor. That prompted the council majority to put Measure E back on the ballot officially. Tuesday's election is binding.

If Irvine residents approve Measure E and the direct election of a mayor, they will have a more direct voice in local government, and there will be less wheeling and dealing and back-room politics in the selection process. Those are two good reasons for voting yes.

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