More than Mayor or Manager

Campaigns to Change Form of Government in America's Large Cities

James H. Svara and Douglas J. Watson, Editors

"This important book is a contribution to both public administration and urban politics. It sheds light on the issues of democracy in political science but also has practical advice for those who are appointed or are elected officials. "
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Different forms of city government are in widespread use across the United States. The two most common structures are the mayor-council form and the council-manager form. In many large U.S. cities, there have been passionate movements to change the structure of city governments and equally intense efforts to defend an existing structure. Charter change (or preservation) is supported to solve problems such as legislative gridlock, corruption, weak executive leadership, short-range policies, or ineffective delivery of services. Some of these cities changed their form of government through referendum while other cities chose to retain the form in use.

More than Mayor or Manager offers in-depth case studies of fourteen large U.S. cities that have considered changing their form of government over the past two decades: St. Petersburg, Florida; Spokane, Washington; Hartford, Connecticut; Richmond, Virginia; San Diego, California; Oakland, California; Kansas City, Missouri; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Dallas, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Topeka, Kansas; St. Louis, Missouri; and Portland, Oregon.

The case studies shed light on what these constitutional contests teach us about different forms of government—the causes that support movements for change, what the advocates of change promised, what is at stake for the nature of elected and professional leadership and the relationship between leaders, and why some referendums succeeded while others failed. This insightful volume will be of special interest to leaders and interest groups currently considering or facing efforts to change the form of government as well as scholars in the field of urban studies.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Framing Constitutional Contests in Large Cities
James H. Svara and Douglas J. Watson

Part I: Change from Council-Manager to Mayor-Council Form

2. St. Petersburg: Easing into a Strong-Mayor Government
J. Edwin Benton, Donald C. Menzel, and Darryl Paulson

3. Spokane: Development Debate Sparks Government Debate
Wendy L. Hassett

4. Hartford: Politics Trumps Professionalism.
Wendy L. Hassett

5. Richmond: Implementation and Experience with Strong Mayor Form of Government
Nelson Wikstrom

6. San Diego: Switch from Reform to Representative
Glen W. Sparrow

7. Oakland: The Power of Celebrity? Explaining Strong-Mayor Charter Reform
Megan Mullin

Part II: Rejected change from Council-Manager to Mayor-Council Form

8. Kansas City: The Evolution of Council-Manager Government
Kimberly Nelson and Curtis Wood

9. Grand Rapids: A Lack of Enthusiasm for Change in the Council-Manager Form
Eric S. Zemmering

10. Dallas: The Survival of Council-Manager Government
Karen M. Jarrell

11. Cincinnati: Charter Conflict and Consensus
John T. Spence

Part III: Change from Mayor-Council to Council-Manager

12. El Paso: Professionalism over Politics in the Shift to Council-Manager Government
Larry Terry

13. Topeka: Council-Manager Redux Finding Balance in the Politics-Administration Dichotomy
R. Paul Battaglio, Jr.

Part IV: Rejected Change to Mayor-Council Form from Commission and Weak Mayor

14. St. Louis: Déjà Vu All over Again: Charter Reform Fails
Robert Cropf, Todd Swanstrom, and Scott Krummenacher

15. Portland: “Keep Portland Weird,” Retaining the Commission Form of Government
Doug Morgan, Masami Nishishiba, and Dan Vizzini

16. Conclusion: Distinct Factors and Common Themes in Change of Form Referenda
James H. Svara and Douglas J. Watson

List of Contributors



"This important book is a contribution to both public administration and urban politics. It sheds light on the issues of democracy in political science but also has practical advice for those who are appointed or are elected officials."—Dick Simpson, University of Illinois at Chicago


J. Paul Battaglio II J. Edwin Benton Robert Cropf Wendy L. Hassett Karen M. Jarrell Scott Krummenacher Donald C. Menzel Doug Morgan Megan Mullin Kimberly Nelson Masami Nishishiba Darryl Paulson Glen W. Sparrow John T. Spence James H. Svara Todd Swanstrom Larry Terry Dan Vizzini Douglas J. Watson Nelson Wikstrom Curtis Wood Eric S. Zeemering

Supplemental Materials


About the Author

James H. Svara is a professor of public affairs and director of the Center for Urban Innovation at Arizona State University. He is coeditor of The Facilitative Leader in City Hall and author of The Ethics Primer for Public Administrators in Government and Nonprofit Organizations.

Doug Watson is a former professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and city manager of Auburn, Alabama. He is co-author of Civic Battles: When Cities Change Their Form of Government.

360 pp., 6 x 9
5 figures, 11 tables
Nov 2010

360 pp., 6 x 9
5 figures, 11 tables
ISBN: 978-1-58901-709-2
Nov 2010

360 pp.
5 figures, 11 tables
ISBN: 978-1-58901-620-0
Nov 2010

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