Local Government and City Finances in Burlington
The events that transpired under the Sanders administration need to be examined in light of the city government's structure--including the executive role of the mayor, the legislative function of the Board of Aldermen, and the role of the city commissions--and its day-to-day operation. The structure and function of municipal government can determine, to a large extent, the power wielded by its highest offices, and Sanders has been forced to adjust his expectations to comply with these inherent limitations. Still, in the areas of appointments and city finances, the mayor has accomplished a lot.
Burlington often is referred to as having a "commission form of government." This is misleading. Said one Burlington activist: "We don't have a commission form of government; what we have is a mayor and council form of government." This distinction is important. What people meant when they said "commission form of government," commented this activist, was the early-twentieth-century movement which saw "administrative and legislative power centralized in one body." This never was (and is not) the form of government in Burlington.
The disagreement over Burlington's form of government is compounded by the perception that it is a "weak mayor form" of government. However, terms such as strong or weak mayor forms of government were "misnomers," according to a former socialist mayor, because many mayors play a strong role in city government despite