Madison residents protest potential change in city government

WAFF 48's Romario Gardner reporting
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 11:55 PM CDT
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MADISON, Ala. (WAFF) - Some people in Madison are ramping up efforts to make their voices heard.

On Thursday, nearly a dozen people hit County Line road to rally others to vote “no” in the upcoming special election to change to a city-manager form of government.

“Everybody can unify over it, no matter what your political leanings because nobody wants to lose their votes,” said Elizabeth Nemati, administrator for PAC Don’t Mess With Madison. She believes the city manager government would be detrimental to all residents.

The change would replace the current system of council-mayor where the mayor is elected by the people and handles day-to-day operations. If elected, a city manager would be responsible for those operations including road and traffic projects and the city’s budget.

“We like to start our own business and own opportunity,” said Nemati, “We don’t need experts to develop the economy for us. We want to develop the economy ourselves.”

The city manager would have the ability to appoint and remove department heads. Some residents feel the change would ruin the current checks and balances in government.

Dr. Terri Johnson, the co-chair of Madison Forward, the group in favor of the change, said that should not be a concern for people worried.

“The council and mayor tell the city manager what to do,” said Dr. Johnson, “So when residents have a concern, they still bring that up to their city council member and then those concerns are conveyed to the city manager for how to handle whatever the concern is.”

Dr. Johnson said the council will have the ability to fire the manager at will if they are not performing in favor of the people at a city council meeting.

She said the city manager’s budget could range from $150,000-$180,000 and the mayor would lose their assistant.

Dr. Johnson believes the position adds continuity to the city’s long-term goals, and that it couldn’t come at a better time.

“The time to think about making this change is not when something is broken,” said Dr. Johnson, “But to be proactive and make sure we’re always having the best form of government for our residents.”

This election will be held on May 9th. Polling places will be open from 7 am to 7 pm.

If voted yes, the new government will go into effect in Nov. of 2025.

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