On the mayor, wanting more power

Mayor Anthony Silva, kvetching at Tuesday’s Council meeting, and again in this story, says the limits on his office are so stifling he often feels like little more than a “cheerleader.”

Silva wants more power. He continues to chafe.

The mayor’s authority, or lack of it, is clearly spelled out in the city charter. Silva’s dismay suggests he never actually read up on the mayor’s role before running for the office of mayor. In a sustained seance of magic thinking, he refuses to accept that Stockton’s council-manager form of government vests power with a council majority and with the city manager.

Again: a council majority. To be effective, a mayor must sway a majority of four votes on the council. Silva entered office blasting away at the council, which for six straight months he denounced as untrustworthy puppets of those mysterious puppeteers that pull the strings around here.

The most self-defeating entrance, ever.

Even as a competent city manager got everyone on board to support the well-thought-out Marshall Plan — demonstrating, incidentally, how consensus works — Silva galloped off the reservation, championing a half-baked rival plan developed by a car salesman and championed by his brother, a developer.

Pause for the irony: even as Silva denounced the council for being lackeys of the business elite, he let a developer with business before the city hand him a major policy proposal.

Digging the hole deeper — with the professionalism of a well-drilling company — Silva also exhorted his Facebook followers to harangue the council for standing in his way. His Facebook friends gave the council headaches for months.

When the Council, demonstrating maturity, overcame its antipathy towards Silva and entrusted him with a key role in the city manager hire, he bungled it.

And since then … nothing, really. The mayor has produced no major policy initiatives.

Gary Podesto, mayor 1997-2004, also chafed at the strictures place on the mayor, and bemoaned how slow government moves. But Podesto got things done. Big things.  Because Podesto knew how to go around quietly to community leaders, rounding up support, how to lobby council colleagues, and how to rally the public behind a vision.

Silva can do none of this well. In truth, Silva is straight-jacketed not by the charter’s limits but by his limits.

The weird thing is, he apparently cannot see this. He externalizes the problem. The city manager wrongly ignores him, the charter binds him, I get him wrong, this paper sensationalizes him because it only wants to sell papers, the Grand Jury reached an erroneous conclusion about him, his critics are all politically motivated.

He could be a good mayor, really. If only the rest of Stockton would get it together.

Because of all this, Silva has not been relegated to the role of cheerleader, as he complains. He had been sidelined. There’s a difference.

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