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— In trying to rush a charter change to the ballot, Murphy is repeating the same mistake made in 1929, says city attorney candidate Michael Aguirre, who researched city history on the topic. In 1929, powers-that-be wanted a quick okay of a strong-city-manager form of government. It was defeated overwhelmingly.

Immediately, the city decided it needed citizen input. Leaders called "freeholders" held numerous community meetings and gathered ideas. By 1931, the city was ready to go for the strong-manager system. The press was overwhelmingly for it. In the end, so were the voters.

By contrast, with Murphy, "There was no public input. It was all done behind closed doors at the very time the city council has made a historic decision to open up city-council meetings," says Aguirre.

Aguirre is not necessarily opposed to a strong-mayor system. But today's proponents "will be hard-pressed to convince the public it is a good idea, when the people proposing it don't have a strong record of commitment to the public interest."

In recent years, in fact, "We have had a weak-city-manager form of government," points out Aguirre. "It will be very difficult to convince the public that we don't have a special-interest form of government now."

The timing of the Murphy proposal is so bizarre that it has engendered an intriguing theory: that the big-money power brokers think Murphy is ineffective. They prefer his opponent, Ron Roberts, who has historically manifested obeisance to overlords feeding him money.

So, to let Murphy self-destruct, the big boys convinced him to put the proposal on the November ballot. Voters, seeing how ridiculous it is, will punish Murphy. Then the corporate-welfare leeches will get a version more to their liking from the servile Roberts. This admittedly challengeable theory poses several questions: Does Murphy know he is being Machiavellied? Or, knowing how severe city finances are, will he be happy to let some other mayor deal with them?

Realistically, as Wolfsheimer Stutz says, the financial woes may not be sorted out by a strong mayor, strong council, or strong manager. The job will go to a strong bankruptcy judge.

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