Madison Ald. Michael Schumacher has launched a blog, True North (first entries begins with a question: "How would you feel getting another 'city leader' without an election? At no additional cost? Sounds too good to be true?"
Maybe it's not most people's idea of Christmas, but Schumacher says he's gotten a positive response to his idea of creating a city administrator.
"I had nobody saying, 'This is absolute nonsense,'" Schumacher says. "I had a lot of people saying, 'This is interesting' and wanting to know more."
City administrators differ from city managers, who are like appointed mayors that answer to the council. A city administrator is a professional, not political, position. He or she supervises city departments, spearheads training efforts and works to make the city more creative and efficient.
"When a department head right now engages a mayoral aide, that department head must be thinking somewhere in the back of his mind, 'This is a political interaction; what does the mayor think?'" Schumacher says. "The city administrator acts as a buffer."
The position could be created with little or no extra funding by channeling staff (and workload) away from the mayor's office. "Then you can have instead of six [mayoral] aides maybe only three," he says. "The savings you would then inject into the administrative office."
Schumacher thinks the idea has merit: "In these times when we're struggling with limited resources, should we not evaluate how we govern ourselves?" But he doesn't plan to give it a hard sell. "If at the end of the day nobody wants it, then no harm done."
That may be the case. Rachel Strauch-Nelson, spokeswoman for Dave Cieslewicz, says the mayor "appreciated Michael's ideas, but doesn't think it's right for Madison."