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A mayor or not? That may be Batavia question

The city hasn't had a mayor in 50 years and at least one former official believes residents should decide whether to reinstate the post.
A proposal for a mayor referendum was on the City Council's agenda when it met Monday. However, it never was discussed after Council members got into a heated debate on whether to hire an assistant city manager.

The assistant city manager's post is recommended by City Manager Jason R. Molino. The $60,000 salary for the post is included in the budget adopted by the Council in March.

The city has had an assistant to the manager since 1964. However, some Council members, concerned about operating deficits and increases in property taxes and sewer/water fees, believe the post is no longer affordable.

Former Councilman Franklin J. Battaglia has been after the Council for years to put the issue of mayor up for a vote.

"A referendum, which is all that is needed, would give the people a choice," Battaglia said. "The city needs a strong mayor, one that was brought up here and cares about the city rather than a career professional passing through."

Herman D. Gabriel served as the city's 15th and last mayor, serving four years until 1958, when a City Charter calling for an administrator/council form of government was adopted.

At the time, some argued that the Charter committee -- dominated by Republicans -- was politically motivated to dump the mayor's post, which at the time was occupied by a popular Democrat.

However, Gabriel, who worked as a movie projectionist, favored the change, citing the need for a full-time expert.

Those in favor of administrator/manager form of government point to the city's annual $24 million budget and a work force of 160 as reasons for professional oversight.

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