A regular council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Monday at city hall, 101 E. Lake St.
The Plunkett Cooney law firm, which provides legal services to the city, recently assembled two potential versions for a ballot proposal.
One version, reflecting mayor Ted Pall’s recommendation from last month, would extend the mayor’s term from one year to two, and council members’ terms from two years to three. Another version, based on an alternative proposal from council member Ron Marshall, would keep the council terms at two years while extending the mayor’s term from one year to three.
Pall, who did not pursue re-election this year and will leave office in the coming weeks, proposed last month that the council explore possibilities for extending future term lengths. He noted that he has fielded multiple complaints and questions about why the mayoral term of office is so short at one year. He added that the limited duration also gives little time to get up to speed with local government operations before making a re-election bid if the mayor desires, and that the cost for pursuing repeated re-election campaigns can be significant relative to the pay the mayor receives — with campaigns for that office typically running about $3,000, compared to yearly pay of $750.
At the same time, Pall said he recognized that keeping terms relatively short potentially can make officeholders more responsive to constituents. Pall noted that staggering terms so that all city officeholders aren’t up for election at the same time can allow for smooth transitions of power and continuity of policy, and that his proposal would allow this to continue.
Marshall noted some similar concerns to Pall’s about the short mayoral term length, but said that his alternative — moving the mayor’s term length to three years and keeping council members’ at two — would provide citizens with the opportunity to replace at least two, and possibly three, elected officeholders in a given election, promoting responsiveness.
Along with Pall and Marshall, council member Bob Johnson also voted to seek possible drafts of ballot language for a charter amendment on the matter, while members Bill Atkins and Tom Postelnick voted against this step. Atkins and Postelnick noted that they’d be willing to discuss the matter further, but wanted to get more people involved in considering the idea before working on possible ballot language.
To move ahead and place a charter amendment proposal on the ballot, legal counsel noted that approval will be needed from three-fifths of the city council. Following such a decision, the ballot question would need to be put before voters at the next regular municipal or general state election or special election, to be conducted no less than 60 days after the council’s decision.