We welcome city of Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller’s announcement Friday night that he intends to run for a second term.
But we hope, if for nothing else than the sake of local democracy, that the citizens of Oneonta will have an election rather than a coronation.
Miller has sought the endorsement of the Democratic as well as Republican Party, just as he did four years ago when he ran on the Democratic line — as well as an independent one — against Republican Erik (no relation) Miller.
This newspaper chose not to endorse Dick Miller in that election because of our worries — based on his debate and other statements — that he would be a status quo mayor. But we learned quickly that our assumption was mistaken. Miller has been quite an activist.
Among his accomplishments have been persuading the Common Council and voters to hire a city manager, diving in to lead preservation efforts for the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center and warning of future budget shortfalls even as he has avoided layoffs of city workers.
He has also worked to bring comity to what had been a fractious Common Council.
“The idea of collaboration is very important to me,” he said last week in a media statement.
Not that Miller is lacking in critics. He was slow to realize that the city police department needed an outside investigation and new leadership to correct serious deficiencies. However, he and the Council were diligent and strident in addressing the problems, and promoting Dennis Nayor to chief of police was a wise and excellent choice.
While he has said he is against hydrofracking in our area, he has infuriated drilling opponents by stating that the proposed Constitution Pipeline is safe and won’t have an effect on whether fracking will happen locally.
Miller’s courtship of the town of Oneonta to merge with the city has been unrequited, to say the least, although it was a major accomplishment just to get the town to even consider the idea, and the “Life Enjoyed” marketing campaign has been a dud.
Any fair assessment of Dick Miller would conclude that he has been a good mayor, working long hours for little pay, being a presence at virtually all city events and being someone open to compromise.
But if he is the Democratic Party nominee, we hope the Republicans nominate someone else. The citizens of Oneonta deserve a choice, and an election is a healthy and essential process to funnel disparate ideas to the forefront. Even though the hiring of a city manager has changed the role of mayor, it’s still important to have a real election.