Announcements, City of Seward, Council, Opinion, Politics

Letter Supporting Proposition to Extend Council and Mayoral Terms

The following letter, written by Assistant City Manager Ron Long, was submitted by the City of Seward. 

Seward voters will decide Ballot Proposition 1 on October 3rd, determining how often vacancies are created and filled for the offices of mayor and council members, and how long the terms of office shall be. The question voters will answer reads as follows: “Shall the Seward City Charter 3.1 and 3.2 be amended to elect council members and the mayor to three year terms rather than two year terms?” The Proposition was submitted by the administration and adopted by the Council to go before voters at the next election.

Currently each council seat is up for election every other year, as is the mayor’s seat. With six council seats and the current two-year terms, a 50% percent turnover in the composition of the council could take place each year. The proposed change to three-year terms electing two seats each year would mean a 33% turnover rate could occur in any given year, and that the mayor would be elected every third year instead of every other year.

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The primary consideration in bringing this proposition forward is active council participation in the budget process. Seward operates on a two-year budget and a January-December fiscal year, meaning the budget is adopted in October or November every other year. In a two-year term, a newly elected council member’s only budget vote of their term is shortly after swearing in, on a budget they’ve had no input in developing. With this the case for half of the Council at each budget cycle, there is increased reliance on administration information rather than member’s experience in casting a vote. In a three-year term, every council member will vote on two budgets and have the opportunity to be fully involved in developing the second.

Other considerations for the proposed change include requiring a smaller number of qualified candidates each year, reducing the likelihood of “bullet voting” with the potential for election by less than a full vote, consistency with all appointed boards and commissions of the City and with other elected bodes throughout the Kenai Peninsula, strengthening Council’s role in policy making through experience, and hopefully encouraging more participation in the process.

If approved by the voters, the change would be phased in as follows: in 2017 all seats are elected for two years (status quo); in 2018 there would be one two-year seat and two three-year council seats elected, and in 2019 one one-year seat and two three-year council seats, as well as a mayor for a three-year term.

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