So - my votes for the three municipal ballot measures will be NO to term extensions, YES to elimination of run-off elections and NO for requiring residency of the Fire and Polices Chiefs to be determined by ordinance.
After much emotional public comment, the Commission voted 3-2 to direct the City Attorney to prepare two ordinances - one to extend the future terms (not the existing Commission terms) to three years and one that would eliminate the run-off election. Commissioners
This is what I said during public comment:
“Regarding the Charter Amendments relating to the term of office and run-off election, I am in favor of having the citizens vote on these items. I believe that three years makes sense. There is more continuity and gives Commissioners an extra twelve months to be productive and not be overly political. This will help tone down our current highly charged political atmosphere. If people complain about how bad things are now, I believe that they are a product of our two year term/run-off form of elections.
“I think it’s best to begin after the existing terms have expired – I am not extending the existing terms of any seated Commissioner or Mayor.”
As for the run-off, I am for the elimination of them. Turn out for municipal elections is low in relation to the total number of registered voters, so are we really getting the representation of the majority in a run-off? I don't think so.”
The ordinances will be coming back to the Commission for final approval and then they will have to approve the ballot language. The election for these would coincide with the January 29th Presidential Primary.
After the meeting, I had some of the following thoughts. I keep going back to the question "50 percent of what?” for run-off elections. We have 40,000 people in this city, of which about 15,000 are registered voters. In a good year for a presidential election we may get 7 or 8 thousand to turn out. For a municipal March election, it hovers between 3 and 4 thousand. The underlying principle is that our elected representatives should reflect the wishes of the majority of citizens. I would argue that the half of the 3 to 4 thousand does not represent a majority opinion and the 50% run-off threshold is an unachievable ideal. It does provide a ready tool for those motivated to elect a candidate.
Boiled down even farther, it's 50 percent of the people that come out to vote on that day. If the election were held a day before or after, the result could be different. That's why holding this precise 50 percent figure to who comes out on a particular day doesn't mean much, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, 50 percent appears, at first glance, to be a rational number that would represent the majority - as I pointed out, for a number of reasons, it doesn't achieve its intended goal. A better measure is really who gets the most votes. If you are really worried about someone getting into office with 7% of the vote - in a 13+ candidate field - then you could lower the threshold for a run-off to 35%. At least then you wouldn't be pretending that the winner of the election had a majority of voters.
Finally, three year terms are equal to the appointments on the majority of City representative boards. This would now parallel Commissioner terms of office if changed to three year from two year terms.