What is Quincy's "strong mayor" system?

And how does it relate to the Department of Social Justice and Equity?

QFTC Organizer | February 26, 2022

Quincy uses the “mayor/council” form of local government, in which voters directly elect an executive mayor and legislative city council. Different cities assign different levels of political power and administrative authority to their mayors, which can broadly be categorized into “strong” and “weak” mayor systems. In a “strong” mayor system, the elected mayor is given almost total administrative authority. The mayor unilaterally appoints and removes departmental heads, possesses veto power, proposes the budget to the city council, exercises oversight over the city’s day-to-day operations, and enforces city laws and ordinances. City council drafts and passes laws, approves the mayor’s budget, and may approve or veto some mayor appointments. By contrast, in a “weak” mayor system, the mayor has no formal authority outside of the council and has limited or no veto power, while the city council has both legislative and executive authority. [1]

Under Quincy’s governmental charter, Mayor Koch is the chief administrative officer for the branches of general government, public safety, natural resources, public works, public service, and central service*, and is also the head of the school committee. Thus, he wields a huge amount of power across a wide range of Quincy’s political branches, influencing everything from school board decisions to the health department to police services. [2]

The main responsibility of Quincy’s city council is to draft and enact legislation; however, it is the mayor’s responsibility to implement and enforce it. Councillors also act as liaisons between the City and the general public in identifying and discussing issues, considering public input, and assisting residents with requesting and receiving City services. When the mayor proposes an annual budget, they can remove items (but cannot add new items) before authorizing it. When the mayor appoints department heads or board or commission members, the council can refuse to confirm his appointments, but cannot appoint their own. [2]

Published criticisms of the “strong mayor” form of government include:

‘Under the “strong mayor” form, it’s easier for special interests to use money and political power to influence a single elected official, rather than having to secure a majority of the city council’s support for their agenda. […] Also, under the “strong mayor” form, the temptation is strong to make decisions regarding the hiring and firing of key department head positions—such as the police chief, public works director, and finance director—based on the applicant’s political support rather than his or her professional qualifications.’ [3]

These concerns have been substantiated by Mayor Koch himself. In January 2021, Quincy’s city council passed a law that created the Department of Social Justice and Equity (DSJE). [4] However, the mayor refused to allocate any funding for the department in the city budget, effectively killing the project. Instead, he handpicked nine of his own personal contacts to form an unpaid volunteer commission on equity and inclusion. [5] None of them had any prior experience with diversity and equity initiatives, and he also deliberately excluded anyone who initially advocated for the DSJE to be formed.

This mayoral commission has no public presence or contact information, and is not even mentioned on the new city government website. There is no transparency or accountability in its deliberations, and no evidence of action being taken. QFTC has reached out to the commission and attempted to work with them on three separate occasions, trying to set up meetings between the committee and Quincy citizens as well as researching and documenting systemic racism in Quincy on their behalf. [6] However, the commission has not followed through on any of their promises. Considering the mayor’s abysmal track record on acknowledging and addressing issues of racism, it’s disappointing but no surprise that his commission reflects the same lack of regard. We need to keep holding the mayor and his handpicked commission accountable for their inability to address Quincy’s significant and widespread racial issues.

Again and again, Quincy residents have testified to their experiences of structural, institutional, and interpersonal racism, and asserted the need for the DSJE. [7] In 2021, over 700 people signed a petition in support of the creation of the department. [8] At the city council meeting on January 24, city councillors are once again seeking funding for the DSJE that they have already created last year. They are asking the mayor to set aside $75000; a tiny proportion of the city budget, which totalled approx. $350 million last year. [9] This proposal is now undergoing further discussion in the council’s Oversight and Finance Committee. Please write or call to show your support for funding the DSJE!

Contact information for the Mayor’s office: https://www.quincyma.gov/government/elected_officials/mayor_s_office/staff___contacts.php

Contact information for city council: https://www.quincyma.gov/government/elected_officials/city_council/councillor_information/index.php


1. https://www.nlc.org/resource/cities-101-mayoral-powers/

2. https://ecode360.com/QU3125


4. https://cms7files1.revize.com/quincyma/Agendas%20&%20Minutes/City%20Council/City%20Council/Minutes/Council_2021_01_19.pdf

5. https://www.patriotledger.com/story/news/2021/07/09/quincy-mayor-appoints-equity-commission-first-meeting-held/7918026002/

6. https://qftc.org/posts/documenting-systemic-racism-and-inequity-in-quincy/

7. https://www.patriotledger.com/story/news/2021/01/19/residents-show-overwhelming-support-department-social-justice-equity/4221250001/

8. http://bit.ly/qftcequityenglish

9. https://cms7files1.revize.com/quincyma/Agendas%20&%20Minutes/City%20Council/City%20Council/Minutes/Council_Minutes_2022_01_24.pdf

* Note: General government includes finances, planning and zoning, the health department, and veterans' services department. Public safety includes the police department, fire department, and department of inspectional services. Natural resources includes the park, forestry, recreation, and conservation divisions. Public works includes the sewer, water, and drain department. Public service includes the Thomas Crane Public Library and the Park and Recreation board. Central service includes automotive and maintenance, equipment, printing, and information technology divisions and departments.