The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Candidate Corbett says city doesn’t need a full-time mayor or a flood CEO

In City Hall, Floods, Monica Vernon, Ron Corbett on March 11, 2009 at 11:37 am

Some critics of City Hall in the business community can begin to long for an earlier time when the city had a full-time mayor, not the current part-time one, to run the show.

Ron Corbett, who announced his candidacy for mayor this week, dismissed such a suggestion in a talk with The Gazette’s editorial board.

Critics who might be thinking about mobilizing the community to change the city’s form of government shouldn’t waste their time, Corbett implied.

“I think you can have strong leadership in any form of government,” Corbett said.

It was only in 2005 that Cedar Rapids residents overwhelming voted to replace its century-old commission form of government with the current professional city manager and a part-time council and part-time mayor.

The commission government had five full-time council members who doubled as department administrators.

But as Corbett pointed out this week, the commission government really was not a strong-mayor form of government. The mayor in that set-up had one of five votes, just like the current part-time mayor is one of nine votes on the council.

What those romanticizing about the past recall, he said, is the city’s long-time, legendary mayor, Don Canney. He said people remember Canney as a strong mayor, but he added it was not because of the form of government.

“It was because he stepped up as an individual,” Corbett said of Canney. “I believe individuals can step in and make a difference.”

Back in 2004, Corbett, then president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, led a petition drive that amassed a required 10,000 signatures that prompted the convening of a Home Rule Charter Commission. (The City Council at the time could have convened the commission, but it wanted to see the signatures).

Over many months, the Charter Commission studied government and opted to give voters the option of council/manager government with a part-time mayor and part-time council. It rejected the option for a full-time mayor.

One of the central arguments in that discussion, which also applied to the commission form of government, was that full-time elected positions prevented talented people from running for City Hall office because they didn’t want to give up careers to do so.

Corbett this week said that was the right decision.

He then talked about the news conference he held at 10 a.m. Monday to announce his run for mayor.

Fifteen minutes after the event, he said he was back at his desk at trucking firm CRST International Inc. on the city’s west side working on the employees’ health-care package.

Holding city office while having a job outside of city government “grounds” a person in real life, Corbett said. He said he wouldn’t want to give that up as mayor.

On a second front, the City Council this evening is going to discuss hiring a new executive to focus on flood recovery, what council member Monica Vernon — and possible mayoral candidate — has called a flood CEO.

The council discussion will be interesting, in part, to see where such a new employee might fit in the City Hall scheme in relation to City Manager Jim Prosser.

Corbett said the city doesnt’ need a flood CEO. He said the city needs a stronger mayor.

The city manager can deliver what a flood CEO might with “the right direction from the mayor and City Council,” he said.

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  1. Ron Corbet’s is a valuable asset to the City of Cedar Rapids. His resume extends WAY past his Chamber experience. His outstanding role as the Speaker of the House for the State of Iowa made him not only a great politician aware of Iowa needs but he could have been a great Govenor if the opportunity prevailed. His knowlegde at State and local level along with Federal opportunities can give him great insight on whether a City the size of Cedar Rapids needs a full time Staff of elected representatives.
    I have fullfilled the role as a councilman for a city of 2000. I am quite aware of the scope of the council/manager government. When there is good leadership and good managers, there is no need to have elected officials interfering with the flow of operations.

  2. The main diffrence between Corbett and his likely opponent for mayor Monica Vernon is that he is the new Paul Pate and she is the new Lee Clancy. We all know how the public sided on that one. I plan on supporting the true business leader, Ron Corbett.

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