SOUTH PASADENA — A professional city manager, not untrained commissioners, should run the city, according to Mayor Dick Holmes.
Tonight, he hopes to convince residents, as well as skeptical members of the City Commission, that changing the city's form of government is a good idea.
In fact, Holmes is so sure of this, he personally paid more than $300 to rent Hibiscus Hall at City Hall for a town hall meeting.
The meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m., will feature a panel of area city managers, city administrators and a mayor tasked with discussing the pros and cons of four types of government organization: commission, city manager, strong mayor and weak mayor.
Panel members will include former Belleair Beach Mayor Rudy Davis, who led that city's switch several years ago to a city manager-run government.
Also on the panel are St. Pete Beach City Manager Mike Bonfield, Treasure Island City Manager Reid Silverboard, Seminole City Manager Frank Edmonds, and retired Tampa Chief Administrative Officer Sam Halter.
The panel discussion and the question and answer session that follows will be moderated by Herb Polson, retired director of intergovernmental services in St. Petersburg.
"This meeting is primarily an opportunity to educate the public," Holmes said. "Running a city is so complicated now. Our form of government is not the best for us anymore."
Since South Pasadena was incorporated in 1955, the city has been run basically by committee. Each commissioner supervises a particular area of the city government, while the mayor serves as the overall administrator and figurehead leader of the city.
But for the past 15 years, much of the city's management has fallen to the city's full-time attorney, Linda Hallas.
Holmes wanted Hallas to participate in tonight's panel discussion, but she refused after the full commission declined to order her to do so.
"I don't want to be put in the middle, defending my own job," Hallas said last week.
Hallas earns $129,700. Holmes argues that that amount would be more than enough to pay for both a city manager and contracted legal services.
This is Holmes' second time at bat in urging a major change in government. In 1993 he was successful in his drive to change St. Petersburg from a city manager to a strong-mayor government.
Holmes helped found Votes of Informed City Electors, or VOICE, which forced a successful citywide referendum in 1993.
Last week, the South Pasadena City Commission refused to sponsor Holmes' event, saying there was too much of a rush to get the issue on the March ballot.
"They slowed me down but didn't stop me," Holmes said Tuesday. "It's going to be a battle, and it's not going to be easy, but there are a lot of good people on my side."
Holmes said he is supported by at least four former city commissioners: Leon Montambault, Bob Daugherty, Lou Ippo and Al Friend.
On Tuesday, Holmes did get agreement from the current commission to put his proposed referendum ordinance on the Nov. 12 commission agenda. A second commission vote would be required in December to meet the supervisor of elections' January deadline for a referendum question to be placed on the March ballot.
If Holmes is not successful in his push for a referendum on switching to a city manager-run government, he said he will leave it to others to continue the battle.
"I am not going to run for election in 2010," Holmes said. "If I don't get the issue on ballot, I will drop it. There are other citizens like members of Voters Watch to take initiative and go for a petition initiative. Let the people decide."