We are a community that understands how difficult public service is. We appreciate those who serve. However, we cannot overlook our city’s long-term instability in the position of city manager.
It has cost us dearly in disruption and distraction.
Now, in a pandemic with government services more in demand, major projects in negotiation that will affect Frankfort for generations and outside investors sizing up whether to have confidence in our city, terminating the city manager without good cause is reckless.
Over years and through many elections, voters have questioned why Frankfort’s city commission slides into factionalism that plays out in the city manager’s job. We see discord, confusion in roles, competition for who gets credit.
Out of the public eye, there has been a disturbing pattern of controlling the city manager by creating job insecurity early in their tenure. A city manager’s job hangs by just three votes. Talented city managers have watched their back and looked quickly for an exit plan.
Are these inherent problems in the city manager form of government? Is there a political culture unique to Frankfort that is sustained by individuals who hold office over a long time? Are roles poorly defined in statute and ordinance? Should we elect to be governed under another of the three alternatives in state law? The questions are many. What is clear is that we cannot continue on this roller coaster.
We must have a citizens’ commission for the study of city government to analyze these questions, look at other cities and state law, and bring proposals to the public. An election is the time to exact a commitment from every candidate for city office that they will agree to appoint a citizens’ commission, if elected.
The citizens’ commission should begin its work within six months of the installation of the new city commission and have a reasonable budget for research and staff support. Our small city has citizens with exceptional expertise in municipal law, local government and the effective functioning of government to help us with this task.
As we keep our focus on the good — our quality of life, our community spirit, the beauty of our historical downtown and river valley — let us also commit that we will lay a better foundation for Frankfort’s future.
No candidate should be elected to city office in November unless they are willing to support a serious study of our government to propose a better path forward for our city. We can do this, together.
Libby Marshall has lived in downtown Frankfort for 35 years. She is a retired attorney who has served on the boards of the Kentucky Capital Development Corp. and Frankfort Independent Schools. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org