Council on Monday rejected the proposal with Councilman Dennis Flores, D-2nd Ward, Councilman, Tim Howard, D-3rd Ward, Councilman Bret Schuster, D-4th Ward, Councilman Eddie Edwards, D-5th Ward, Councilman Rick Lucente, D-6th Ward, Councilman Myroslaw “Mickey” Silecky, D-7th Ward, Councilman Frank DeTilio, D-8th Ward, as well as at-large Council members Dan Given, Anne Molnar and Tony Richardson voting to table the proposal.
Councilman Brian Gates, D-1st Ward, made the proposal and voted no. Before the vote, Gates argued that two-year terms put members of Council in a permanent campaign cycle reducing constituent service time and discouraging residents from seeking office.
Gates also argued that two-year terms make residents assume Council members are more likely to play it safe than take a principled stand if a controversial vote occurs near a primary or general election. Gates said the assumption is unfair, but understandable.
“That’s another reason why I thought this was a worthwhile proposal,” he said.
Gates proposed staggering elections so residents are always voting for some members of Council every two years. However, Gates’ colleagues and a few residents who spoke at Monday’s public hearing on the issue said four-year terms are too long.
They argued that four-year terms would make Council members more likely to coast for the first three years.
“If you sit there for two years and do nothing, you’re not going to get voted (back) in,” said resident and frequent Council critic John Wargo.
Given — who has the longest tenure on Council taking office in 1994 — said campaigning is expensive and time consuming. Nonetheless, Given said it gives Council members a better idea of constituent concerns by forcing them to press the flesh.
Given said four-year terms remove power from voters. “All of us, as members of Council, should be held to task and forced to be in front of the public more often,” he said.
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