Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 8, 2013

Deputy mayor compromise should stand

—  At their Tuesday meeting, Goshen City Council members got the job done. They shared their views about a contentious issue, engaged in some give-and-take, and arrived at a workable compromise.

Time to move on? Maybe not just yet. Politics are at play.

On the face of it, the issue is a yawner. Council members voted to establish a deputy mayor position for Goshen. The deputy would basically fill in if the mayor was out of the area or unable to perform mayoral duties.

Minus an official deputy mayor position, Goshen’s mayor is required by state law to select a fill-in from current City Council members, and the pick must be announced publicly at a Board of Public Works and Safety meeting.

Establishing the deputy’s position was no easy feat — Tuesday marked the third time the proposal had been debated at a City Council meeting. A sticking point has been how much leeway the mayor should have in picking a substitute, and who should be eligible to serve.

Ultimately, council members voted 5-2 for an ordinance The Goshen News views the new process as a worthy compromise. This measure allows the mayor to pick either a city employee or the City Council president.

City employees are knowledgeable in the day-to-day business of running Goshen. City Council presidents are selected by the majority of council members, themselves in office courtesy of Goshen voters.

City Council presidents and municipal employees seem like sound candidates for a deputy mayor. Recall, though, that politics are involved on both sides of the GOP/Democrat divide.

Mayor Allan Kauffman is mulling a veto of the ordinance. He says he’d like the option of picking any City Council member to fill in as deputy.

It’s fair to point out that Kauffman pushed setting up a deputy mayor’s position during what he’s said will be his last term in office. No doubt he also would like to see a fellow Democrat be Goshen’s next mayor. And being deputy would offer public exposure prior to a bid for the big job.

The News appreciates candor from public officials, and we thank City Council members Everett Thomas and Jim McKee for providing it during Tuesday’s council meeting. Thomas, a Democrat, and the GOP’s McKee got to the point.

“The elephant in the room is that you don’t want Allan to appoint Jeremy as the deputy mayor,” Thomas said to McKee, who responded in the affirmative. “Jeremy” is City Council member Jeremy Stutsman, a Democrat and not the council president.

Frankly, Goshen has survived without an official deputy mayor this long, and The News doesn’t see the urgency in having one now. The process spelled out by state statute seemed to be working fine.

We see political maneuvering from both sides of the deputy mayor issue. Perhaps our mayor wishes he’d left well enough alone.

As it stands, the ordinance approved after much debate by the City Council should serve Goshen well in the event a deputy mayor is needed. Mayor Kauffman should keep his veto pen in the drawer.