Goshen News, Goshen, IN

August 17, 2013

Does Goshen really need a deputy mayor? Maybe ... maybe not


GOSHEN — A proposal favored by Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman has some merit, and The Goshen News isn’t opposed to it. Still, we’re hard-pressed to understand the urgency. Goshen City Council members recently reviewed a proposed ordinance establishing the position of deputy mayor. This mayoral appointment would serve in the mayor’s place if he or she is out of the area for an extended period, ill or injured.

As of yet, Goshen doesn’t have a deputy mayor. As such, state law requires the mayor to select a fill-in from current City Council members, and the selection must be announced publicly at a Board of Public Works and Safety meeting. Kauffman said he sees potential risk to his family and property in publicly announcing he’s out of town. He has a point.

Under the proposed ordinance, the mayor would only have to inform the city clerk-treasurer and City Council president of an absence. There would also be a broader range of potential deputies from which to choose. City Council members voted the ordinance down in a 4-3 split. A crisis for the Maple City? Hardly. We’ve managed without a deputy mayor this long, and can stand to wait until another proposal is successful, if ever.

Modern mayors can be reached by cell phone and e-mail; The News has never found Kauffman to lack for accessibility. Circa 2013, leading from afar isn’t a problem should an issue arise needing a mayor’s attention.

Council members raised concerns about the proposal, prominent among them just how much leeway the mayor should be given in selecting a deputy. Potential partisanship in a deputy pick was another issue.

Let’s address the political angle. Kauffman would likely favor a fellow Democrat as deputy mayor. He’d also no doubt like to see a Democrat as Goshen’s next elected mayor. Kauffman has announced he’s serving his final term in office. Speculation that he would appoint a fill-in as a way to boost an election profile isn’t out of line.

Note, though, that the proposed ordinance was defeated 4-3 along party lines, and GOP council members prevailed. Kauffman doesn’t have a monopoly on partisanship. Neither, considering the three Democrat votes in favor, do the Republican council members. It’s also accurate to point out that appointing a deputy mayor wouldn’t be a Kauffman-only privilege. Future Republican mayors would have their picks, too.

Regarding mayoral discretion, The News likes Republican council member Jim McKee’s idea. He favors having the choice limited to a pool of city employees, rightly observing that they have a firm grasp on day-to-day city operations.

However, we also see value in perhaps limiting the pick to the City Council president. Republican or Democrat, this individual is picked via a majority council vote, with the council members themselves voted in by Goshen residents. Such a move would take stock of Goshen’s prevailing political winds, and at the same time shield the mayor — whose party affiliation doesn’t always mirror that of the council majority — from charges of political favoritism.

The deputy mayor issue may yet find itself before the Goshen City Council again. We trust council members will make a well-reasoned decision. They have the time to do so, after all. Goshen has survived without a deputy mayor so far.