To the Editor:
DeKalb's City Council, mayor and city manager all serve at the pleasure of the voters of DeKalb. They do not have the right to overrule the will of the people. Politicians and appointed officials believe they know instinctively what that will is. Usually, they’re right.
But from time to time, a matter is so contentious or difficult to parse that it is put to the people directly, via a referendum. It’s the most direct form of democracy we have. The results are a perfect reflection of the will of the voters. For a public servant to override that explicit will is, literally, anti-democratic. It’s governing by fiat. It’s authoritarian. It’s wrong.
On Monday, the City Council will vote on changing the elected City Clerk position to an appointed position. The wording of the ordinance to do so mirrors that of the referendums (two of them) in which DeKalb voters overwhelmingly said “no” to this proposed change. In the last referendum, the people of DeKalb voted 70.5% to keep the elected Clerk an elected clerk, explicitly telling the mayor and council to stop trying to make it an appointed position. We spoke. Clearly.
Reading the background to Monday’s proposed vote, it’s obvious that the mayor and city manager want to change the clerk to an appointed position as a way around their inability to work out differences with the current clerk. Ironically, this mayor appointed that clerk to fill a vacancy in the office. They want to make this fundamental change to the structure of DeKalb government, a structure rooted in the idea of checks and balances, rather than avail themselves of the more difficult process afforded under law to remove an elected Clerk from office. It’s expedient … for them. It’s also a shameless end-run around the stated will of the people. Could the current council and mayor put it to another referendum? Absolutely. But they know we’d say no a third time.
This is authoritarianism from your local officials. Call them. Email them. Show up at the council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the municipal building, 200 S. Fouth St. Remind them that they work for us, and we already told them – twice – to cut this nonsense out. And if that doesn’t work, vote the offenders out of office. Because we don’t elect or appoint dictators in this town.