Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Stay out of it, Mayor

THERE WAS AN ordinance introduced at last night's City Council that would give the mayor the authority to appoint the chiefs of police and fire department. Not only that, the chief's term would end when the mayor's term ends. 

Ludicrous, underhanded and reeking of partisanship are descriptions that come to mind when looking at the issue. 

First of all, the chiefs are picked by a three-person commission. These three men, all good citizens of our city, take the applications and carefully go through an exhaustive process. The idea is to let them do their job and to keep favoritism and politics out of the process. And it works.

The commission got it right when they hired Rob Copley chief of police all those years ago. They got it right when they hired Joe Henning as fire chief. But now the commission is being called into question shortly after they picked longtime Quincy Fire Department firefighter Bernie Vahlkamp as the new chief to replace the retiring Henning.

Mayor Mike Troup says the ordinance was introduced because of cost issues and "accountability" after the commission picked Vahlkamp.

Read between the lines here - "cost" has never been an issue before. And "accountability" means somebody got their feelings hurt and threw a fit when their candidate didn't get the fire chief's job. 

Interesting how the ordinance was posted on the agenda on Friday, yet neither chief nor many of the aldermen were contacted about it or told it was coming. Neither were the commissioners. This is a big issue and it caught a lot of people by surprise. Intentional? You decide.

Look. If you are the mayor, or an alderman, or a member of the city administration, you are not supposed to have your buddy or your friend or your guy be the chief of police or fire chief. You are supposed to work with the person in charge, not manipulate or direct them to any certain policy. 

Why change something just because your person didn't get picked? Or are there other issues out there we don't know about? It give the impression that the mayor and his administration are trying a power grab to gain more authority. 

All I can tell you is the three men on the commission - Steve Meckes, Barry Cheyne and Kerry Anders - are good men who have quietly done a good job for many years. Ironically they are selected by the mayor to be on the commission. In fact, the commission was formed in 1972 and has rarely missed the mark when picking a new chief. 

Stay out of their way, mayor. They know what they are doing. It's one less thing you need to worry about.

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