The choice the Aurora City Council should make to fill the position of mayor is clear: Councilman Bob LeGare should assume the role.
The Aurora mayor’s position was made unexpectedly vacant by the May 13 cancer death of Mayor Steve Hogan. Hogan’s term runs through the end of 2019.
While the vacancy itself highlights problems with the city’s form of government and electoral procedures, LeGare is the easy and natural choice to fill the position now.
Foremost, LeGare is a provably above-board and honest politician. In the several years and two tours of duty LeGare has served as at-large councilman in Aurora, he has regularly been counted on for frank and principled conduct.
In addition, among the four finalists for the job, selected by the rest of the city council, LeGare has been repeatedly elected among voters from across the city.
Former council members Renie Peterson and Debbie Hunter Holen, as well as Hogan’s son, Timothy Hogan, all bring intriguing qualifications to the table, but LeGare’s tenure and temperament make him perfectly suited for this interim appointment.
He has committed to filling only the vacant term, stepping down from the job and the city council after next year’s election. In addition, he’s assured city lawmakers to essentially push ahead with Aurora’s current goals and projects, which are decided by council majority and not the mayor’s office.
LeGare gets it that the role of Aurora mayor is that of an enabler rather than a trend setter.
While that preserves what Mayor Hogan’s vision for the role of mayor was, it doesn’t address what the role should be.
Hogan, himself, lamented the job, which really has no official duties or direction, other than to work full time, officiate over the city council meetings and sign legislation after it’s been approved.
Hogan was the city’s third full-time mayor, each predecessor making the job what they thought it should be.
It needs to be more.
While the mayor is the public face of the city and city government, he or she doesn’t make policy, and in fact, can’t even regularly vote on legislation.
The city is run by a professional city manager, overseeing daily and strategic operations carried out by upwards of 4,000 employees.
The city council should take this opportunity to appoint a citizen-council commission to examine the duties of mayor, which could include the power to appoint a manager and other key administration positions.
The voice of voters is seriously diluted by a large city council that is increasingly removed from critical functions of the government. A more powerful mayor could amplify the voice of voters. A redefined mayor could allow for a more ombudsman role, giving voters a bigger say in daily city operations.
Also, the city currently allows for the city council to appoint the important role of mayor and other city lawmakers, even in years between elections. While it’s critical for the city to be able to fill a vacancy relatively quickly, the charter should be changed to require an election for an at-large or mayoral vacancy if the election is more than 12 months away.
Allowing the political majority to undermine voters by a narrow vote serves only political causes and not voters.
We’d recommend to LeGare, that since he’s signaled his intent to refrain from the politics of having to get re-elected or serve any political faction, he take the lead of examining the role of the office of mayor. Such a move would only reinforce the wisdom of the status quo, or lead to a way to make the city a stronger and better place for everyone.