With the charter change, we wait and see

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When the new Board of Mayor and Aldermen meets July 5, they’ll be operating under a different set of rules.

In April 2015, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. told the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce the city’s commission form of government needed changing.

Monday, after more than two years of debate, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved changes in the city’s 105-year-old charter that lays out the “rules” for the city’s commission form of government.

“I feel relieved, now that all the work we put in is not in vain, and I think it’s the most progressive thing that ever happened to this city,” Flaggs said. “And I intend to restructure and reorganize this city so that we can have more day-to-day oversight and accountability, and I hope that translates in to saving dollars.”

Accountability. That has been one of Flaggs’ themes since he took office in 2013. Vicksburg’s commission form of government is a unique form of municipal government, one that at one time was very popular with cities in Mississippi for many years. It is now a relic, and Vicksburg is one of two cities in the state that still use it.

Under the city’s form of government, each elected official has a vote on each issue. There is no chief executive officer, like mayors are in most cities, no one with administrative oversight over the functions of government. That’s something the charter amendments are expected to change.

Under the amendments, each member of the commission — the mayor and each alderman — will have direct supervision over one or more city division.

“They (residents) have someone they can go to who is directly over a department head,” Flaggs said. “It’s a direct avenue to government and accountability.”

While we would rather see a more efficient and accountable form of municipal government such as a mayor and council form, the charter amendments provide a potential for our present form of government to function better, be more accountable to the voters and possibly become more progressive.

However, it may take some time, after they are fully implemented before we will see whether they will effectively improve city government and provide a vehicle for the city to move forward.

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield has a point — we’ll have to wait and see.