Madison residents split over proposal for new form of government

WAFF 48's Romario Gardner reporting
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 12:15 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 14, 2023 at 5:51 AM CDT
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MADISON, Ala. (WAFF) - It will now be up to the people of Madison to decide if they want a new form of government. Council members approved a resolution on Monday allowing voters to decide if they want to adopt a city manager.

Numerous people packed city hall during the March 13 city council meeting, opposing the change with some concern over a lack of transparency.

Under the current government, the mayor is elected by the people and serves as the CEO of the city. The mayor handles day-to-day operations and presents the city budget to the Council for approval. He also does not vote on items brought before the council. The mayor and employees provide the City Council with information it uses to set policies.

The new form of government would transfer the mayor’s responsibilities to the hired city manager, and they would have the ability to appoint and remove department heads. They would also present the budget to the city council.

“We the people deserve to have our vote on the person who runs our city,” said Margi Daly with Madison Watch Dogs, a community watch group.

She believes the change would give too much power to an official not beholden to their citizens.

“Simple things like street lights, roads, infrastructure. We may be ignored totally by this person. We have no idea,” said Daly.

In a council-manager form, Madison would transition from 7 voting Council districts to six districts with a voting Mayor. The city manager would not change with each new administration, a factor Marc Jacobson with Madison Forward, the group spearheading this change, sees as a benefit.

“I love Mayor Finley he’s done a great job but what happens when he’s no longer in office,” said Jacobson. Dr. Terri Johnson, director of Madison Forward said the group filed a petition calling for a special election on the issue. It needed about 900 certified signatures of registered city voters to be submitted to the Probate judges in the counties where the Madison city limits are located. The group attempted to bring the matter to the ballot previously but failed to receive enough votes.

Jacobson believes having a person who can stick around long-term comes with many benefits.

“That continuity is key. It adds stability to our school systems. For our citizens, for city staff,” said Jacobson.

Council members reassured residents they were only voting on giving them a voice, a sentiment Mayor Paul Finley shares.

“I think all of us want to be in the position whether we’re in these seats come 2025, that our city is still in the best possible shape.”

If the proposal passes, the change will take effect in 2025. The special election will be held on May 9th from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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