Strong Mayor, Weak Mayor? Does it Matter?


Occasionally we find cities immersing their citizens in quasi-introspective questions of governance structure. There weak-mayor models, strong-mayor models, some with city managers where decision-making power is centralized, some with more diffuse power structures. It turns out there may not be inherent advantages from among the options, as cities are basically responsive to similar degrees.

Of course, what’s missing from this research is a next level of inquiry into whether different governance models offer advantages in terms of transparency in decision-making, catalyzing ‘significant’ policy changes, or shepherding public investments the reduce the ‘socialize risks, privatize returns’ that impoverish so many cities. If you engage in conversations across North America, you often hear people lump Vancouver, Seattle and Portland together, but the reality is their governance models are very different.

When we look at each other to fuel our friendly competition to do better, we also need to separate out the policy from the way decisions get made and implemented. For all you budding urban sustainability students out there, here lies an interested vein of research waiting to be done. – Tom Osdoba Image source: Danny Howard

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