If you happened to stop by City Hall this past Monday to attend the city council meeting, you found that this week’s meeting was canceled. I found this rather odd, so I asked a helpful city employee why the council chambers were dark and unoccupied. After calling around to check, she informed me that because City Manager Travis Rothweiler & Assistant City Manager Mitch Humble were both absent, the city council decided to cancel the meeting.
A brief refresher of exactly what the city manager position is and what duties are granted to it follows. In Twin Falls, the city council is made up of seven publicly elected officials who choose from among themselves who will serve as mayor. To clarify: that means that your mayor is not elected, but selected from among the seven council members. The council in turn hires an individual to perform the job of City Manager. This type of employee is commonly referred to as a bureaucrat (an official in a government department, in particular, one perceived as being concerned with procedural correctness at the expense of people’s needs). The City Manager creates and administers all of the items on the budget (that means he or she spends all the money you and I pay into the city’s coffers), make any and all decisions about city employees in all respects, and is the primary advisor to the city council. The city council is bound from obstructing anything the City Manager does in the city code (Title I, Chapter 2, Section 3). Specifically, the city code states:
“The city council and its members shall deal with the administrative services of the city only through the city manager, except for the purpose of inquiry, and neither the city council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any subordinates of the city manager. It shall be the responsibility of the city council and its members to aid and assist in an advisory capacity any department head, individually or collectively, on any phase of policy and/or public relations, such association not to conflict with the administrative duties of the city manager.” (emphasis mine)Ord. 3106, 10-5-2015
If you are thinking that this office has powers comparable to Jafar from Disney’s Aladdin, you’re not far off. It should be noted that I am not speaking about any individual who has held or is currently holding the position of the city manager, but rather the position itself. During the 2021-2022 budget proposal meetings, the city manager essentially ran the show, and our city council asked very few, and very shallow, questions of him.
The city manager position should be an elected one, and the powers that are held by it should be distributed amongst the city council. We will be publishing an article about the position and what Twin Falls citizens can do to begin to demand accountability from our city government. Stay tuned!
Call to Action
If you want to know how you can get involved, please come join us for our seminar on how to become a citizen activist on Monday, October 18, 2021, at 204 Main Ave N, Twin Falls. I hope to see you there!