At least two members of the Lebanon City Council, Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino and Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes, are opposed to a resolution that would change the citys government to a City Manager form, expressing their opposition before a vote could change the government on Tuesday.
Cesternino said in an email that he has not be informed by the other members of the council on the issue and said he only saw the resolution because Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead showed him a copy.
I am strongly opposed to this resolution, Cesternino said, adding that he felt the timing was wrong, the lack of information was unsettling, the cost unknown, a lack of necessity for the change and the inappropriate nature of having the council decide such a large change on its own.
Hayes said he doesnt have enough concrete information about the other form of government to vote in its favor on such short notice. He pointed out the council has yet to approve a budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year and said there are too many financial unknowns to approve a change of government at this time.
I cant vote for it because I dont know enough about it, Hayes said.
Cesternino also stressed the fact that a budget has not been passed and that should remain the councils top priority. He noted the resolution calls for the council to hire a City Manager during next years budget process, a frightening prospect to Cesternino.
Somehow, based on what I observed in my first budget process, that does not seem like a recipe for success for either task, he said.
Hayes said they do not know how much money a City Manager would make, nor how much a secretary would be compensated in addition to other financial issues. The manager would require the use of a city vehicle, office space and other necessities that cost unknown amounts of money.
When we cant get a budget together, how can we hire someone to make so much money? Hayes asked.
Cesternino said the council has had one work session relative to the City Manager form of government and it had little hard information as to why it would benefit the citizens.
He said the council needs to sit down with other cities that have transitioned from a full-time mayor to a city manager to find out how much it costs from passing the resolution to having a manager in place.
When it comes to negative feedback from citizens, Cesternino said he has not heard as much directed toward Mayor Philip Craighead or former Mayor Don Fox. In fact, he has heard more anger toward the council than mayor.
I have received more negative feedback relating to the actions and performance of the council, and I include myself as I have received many negative critiques of my opinions and votes, than I have relating to the actions and performance of the last two mayors, Cesternino said.
Hayes and Cesternino said the choice should be left for the citizens of Lebanon as opposed to a vote by the city council. Cesternino said this was his largest point of contention and added he would like to see numerous public meetings held on the subject for the citizens.
We have some votes upcoming and I would wholeheartedly support placing an initiative on the ballot for the approximately 13,400 registered voters of the city of Lebanon to decide, Cesternino said.
I would rather have it come up to a referendum. I was opposed to the superintendent of schools becoming an appointed position and I think this needs to be up for a vote, Hayes noted.
The council would have to request the charter change be ratified by a referendum if it passes an initial council vote and goes before the Tennessee General Assembly. If placed on a referendum, the final say would belong to the voters.
If a referendum is not requested by the council and a Private Act to change the charter is passed by the General Assembly, the council would vote again to ratify the change and would need a two-thirds majority of the six-member council, or four votes to approve.
By PATRICK HALL, The Wilson Post
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.