On the panel making the case for change was Steve Becker, one of the petitioners who helped get the issue on the ballot. On the other side was Clarence Wyatt, representing a local group that favors keeping the city manager form of government.
On hand to answer technical questions were Andrew Hartley from the Department of Local Government and J.D. Chaney, director of governmental affairs for the Kentucky League of Cities.
Moderator and Centre College government professor William Garriott accepted written questions from the crowd and relayed them to panelists.
Chaney and Hartley said they were not there to "sell" either type of government but came merely to provide information.
"One is not better than another from a policy standpoint," said Chaney. "The beautiful thing about Kentucky is that you do have the ability to choose what works best in your hometown, and that's what you're going to be able to do in November."
The consensus of the two experts seemed to be that the most basic issue in the differences of the two governments is the separation of power.
Under the city manager form of government, said Hartley, both the legislative and executive branches of the government are vested in one body: the commission. In a mayor-council form, however, the powers are separate. Often throughout the forum, the examples of the president and Congress, and governor and the General Assembly, were used to show how a mayor-council form would potentially work for Danville.
The mayor would generally exercise a great deal more power in a mayor-council form of government, including the ability to make appointments pending council ratification. This was equated to a president filling up his cabinet. In a mayor-council form of government, while the council would approve the budget, the mayor would have the full administrative ability to make and execute contracts falling within the budget.
Chaney said that if Danville voters approve a change in government, only the internal structure would change, not Danville's overall power or classification as a city.
Changes likely would not be apparent until Jan. 1, 2011, when the council members would take office following November 2010 elections. Also, the city commission would actually be the governing body to set the ordinance deciding how many council members would represent Danville. That number could be anywhere from six to 12.
Origins of city manager form of government
Wyatt said the city manager form of government originated about 100 years ago during the progressive era in America.
"It was a time of tremendous change," he said, noting the form of government was developed to prevent complications arising from small governments.
"And since then, city governments haven't gotten any less complicated," Wyatt said.
Wyatt said the complexity of Danville's government begged for the full-time expertise he said is provided by a city manager. He also noted what he believes are great things that have happened to Danville under the city manager form of government that started in 1966. Time Magazine's 1997 listing of Danville as a Top 10 small city in the country was one accolade.
"Was the city manager government solely responsible (for the accomplishments)? Certainly not," he said, adding that it did, however, play a role in Danville's success.
Wyatt said the "professional buffer" a city manager provides is essential to Danville's government.
Becker, however, stated his disappointment with how things are currently set up in Danville government and said the city deserves one strong figure in a mayor that citizens can look up to.
"There are groups of concerned citizens that see some of the uniqueness, some of the sharpness, the wonderful attributes of the city are disappearing," said Becker, who's twice run for city commission.
Becker also had a definite idea of the role a mayor should play.
"A mayor is our representative, not just to Danville, but to the state, to the county, and to the world.
"This has not been asked of a citizen, to become our mayor, in 40 years," he said, referring to what he feels would be a calling of sorts under the mayor-council form of government.
Becker said with Danville's current government it's often hard to figure out who exactly is in charge. And that confusion, he asserted, has brought about an unhappy climate.
"Today the citizens of this great city are unsure the present leadership is up to the task.
"All they see, we see and hear is hatefullness, back-stabbing and a resistance to stand up and take charge."