Should Dubliners opt for a directly elected mayor?

Plebiscite to be held in May on the same day as the local elections

While the plebiscite on whether or not to have a directly elected mayor is set to be held next May on the same day as the local elections, it could be as far away as 2019 before we hold elections if the local-election cycle is observed.

While the plebiscite on whether or not to have a directly elected mayor is set to be held next May on the same day as the local elections, it could be as far away as 2019 before we hold elections if the local-election cycle is observed.

Sat, Jul 27, 2013, 13:05

Former minister for the environment John Gormley was very keen indeed on having a directly elected mayor (DEM) for Dublin. No stalling consensus-building plebiscites for him, we were getting a DEM and that was that.

Current Minister Phil Hogan is not quite as gung-ho. Dubliners have been told they can have one if they want and that the choice will be theirs next year.

While the plebiscite on whether or not to have a DEM is set to be held next May on the same day as the local elections, it could be as far away as 2019 before we hold elections if the local-election cycle is observed.

The success or otherwise of the experiment will depend on two factors: what powers we give the mayor and who we get.

Three main models have been put forward. The first would be the all-powerful Bloomberg-style mayor, who appoints an executive with each member having responsibility for a different city service such as transport, housing, planning. The second model is similar but the cabinet/executive is made up of elected councillors.

The final model is the purely representative mayor, essentially what we have at the moment, but for five years instead of the current one.

This would certainly be the easiest option and would accomplish much of what Dublin requires from a mayor – someone to be an ambassador for the city, attract foreign investment and oversee crucial projects.

The current blink-and-you-
miss-them mayors rarely get to see through any initiative they spearhead, such is the short duration of their stewardship.

While it is the easy option, it’s less likely to result in saving money or any real reform of local governance than the other two.

A survey by Dublin City Council published this week found that 61 per cent of respondents wanted a mayor but, surveys aside, Dubliners will vote to have one just for the pure novelty of it – sure why not give it a lash?

Well, because of Twitter/Facebook largely. There’s always a danger that people with far too much time on their hands will rally behind some nonsense candidate. On the flipside, if we can be spared wrestlers (Jesse Ventura was mayor of Brooklyn Park on his way to becoming governor of Minnesota) or stand-up comedians, social media will probably play a major part in ensuring people take an interest in the position, and even go out and vote.

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