Monday, November 29, 2010


Yesterday a friend from Madison sent me an article by Barry Gore: Madison needs a professional City Council asking me at the same time whether the Freiburg model of city government may not serve in Madison.

What I understood was that Madison is run from the Mayor’s Office by experts and twenty alders in a city council who are paid U$ 7545 per annum to cover their expenses.

In a first approximation Freiburg’s administration structure is similar. The city has a Lord Mayor and a city council with 48 members both elected by the people representing the usual German party spectrum. All council members are working in an honorary basis with their expenses covered.

The difference between Madison and Freiburg is that here we sport an additional four mayors each of them heading a Dezernat (department). These mayors are elected by the city council hence mirror the party composition of the latter but are supposed to be somehow experts in their departments. Like the Lord Mayor the four mayors are fully paid.

The Lord Mayor’s office treats general organization, administration, personnel matters, law, and public relation (partner cities). One of the mayors deals with economy, finance, housing, sports, and public order (police). Another cares about environment, forests, schools, and waste. The third one is responsible for social affairs, culture, youth, and integration of people. The fourth mayor runs the building departments and annexed activities.

These four mayors and their departments cost a lot of money. So a few years ago the city council decided that Freiburg could do with only three additional mayors. Without going into the detail, the decision to oust the mayor responsible for building and to dissolve the Baudezernat was based on the issue of competence and economy.

This year the city council eventually came back on its decision. In spite of city finances still running low the council reinstalled the fourth mayor, the Baubürgermeister. The official reason was the excess of work for the previously three mayors and their departments.

Freiburg's new Baubürgermeister Professor Dr. Martin Haag (©Thomas Kunz/BZ)
In the northern part of Germany we say: Rut us de Kartüveln, rin in de Kartüveln, or if you understand what I mean, is it better to say: Out of the cotton field, back into the cotton field?

My question is, considering the outcome of the recent elections in the States, how do Americans feel about more administration even on a level as modest as a city.

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