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For a stronger mayor

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A minimal requirement of representative government is that those leaders chosen by the people have authority to lead the people. Little Rock is below the minimum at the moment, but struggling to rise.

Under Little Rock's form of city government, the mayor's office is mostly ceremonial. That would change under two issues being submitted to the voters for approval. One proposal would give the mayor veto power over ordinances, although his veto could be overridden by a vote of 8 of the 11 members of the city board of directors. The other would give the mayor authority to hire and fire the city manager and the city attorney, with the approval of at least five board members; to fill vacancies on boards and commissions (also subject to board approval), and to prepare the city budget. As the present mayor is part-time and the new mayor would be full-time, the salary would rise, appropriately, from $36,000 to roughly four times that amount. The current salary assures that only rich people can serve.

As we've said before, the change we'd prefer would be to the mayor-council form of government, with elimination of the city manager's position. But such a change is not before us. What is before us is an improvement over what we have now.

Early voting is under way. Election Day is August 14.

Unhealthy

Michael Moore's “Sicko” is an admirable if understated explication of the health-care mess in America, and the Bush administration's complicity in it. But injury comes so quickly in the American system that not even a muckraker of Moore's stature can keep up.

We were barely out of the theater, still pondering the greed and callousness of the health-care industry and the malfeasance of its political allies, when the Washington Post reported that a Bush appointee, a political hack with no training in public health, had blocked release of a surgeon general's report because it insufficiently praised the Bush administration. The report dealt with solutions for global health problems. The official, William Steiger, was more concerned with good media than good medicine.

A Steiger aide wrote in an e-mail: “We believe this document should be focused tightly on the Administration's major priorities in global health … ” Be positive, in other words. Write about the people who haven't died because of Bush's policies, not those who have.

Insurers, drug companies and industrial polluters spent millions to elect George Bush, and they're getting a handsome return on their investment, including the right to overcharge the elderly ill for drugs. While the corporations get richer, the people get poorer and sicker. No other industrialized country in the West tolerates such cruel treatment. Americans shouldn't either .

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