Here is more detail about last night’s City Council meeting.
During the public comment period, Bob Turner who chairs the Charter Commission indicated that his group was now looking at moving the referendum to June. I understand that the Jewish holiday Shavuot begins at sundown on the current date proposed for the referendum. I am not sure if this was the reason for the change or the fact that the current date immediately follows the Memorial Day weekend.
He also told the council that they have found a way to reduce the cost of the election by $9,500.00 and plan to apply for a grant that would cover $25,000.00 of the election’s cost.
Turner stated that he expected that the interest by the citizens in the referendum would be so great that the number of voters would exceed those in a November general election.
Michele Madigan presented two motions for funding the request from the Charter Commission. One was to pay for the administrative and programmatic expenses of the Commission which was for $46,000.00. This passed unanimously. She then moved that the council provide $37,000.00 for the special election.
What followed was a fairly contentious discussion. Part of the problem was that the discussion was allowed to veer off the question of whether to fund the special election/referendum to whether the current form of government should be changed.
The Mayor spoke briefly supporting the resolution. She praised the Commission for its work and pointed out to the members of the council that all of them were involved in appointing commission members. This drew a sharp response since the Mayor appointed eleven members while the other council members were only allowed one appointment each.
Commissioner Mathiesen said that he supported the special election but that it would be fine to have it in November if that’s how things turned out. He then gave a lengthy statement about the need to change the form of our government.
John Franck then gave a very long and very animated statement in which he vigorously opposed the May vote. He took special exception to statements made in the public comment period by members of the Charter Commission. He interpreted their plans to educate the public as condescending. He asserted that it was unfair to have a special election and saw the effort as a way of suppressing the vote. With this he announced that if the Charter Commission were to go forward with the special election he would vigorously oppose the ballot measure no matter what was in it. On the other hand, he told the council that if the referendum was held in November he would withdraw himself from advocating for or opposing whatever charter they came up with.
Skip Scirocco offered a “triple” no on funding a special election. He spent some time expressing his frustration over the efforts to change the government from the current commission form in light of the success of the city and the fact that the last two attempts were soundly rejected by the voters.
Michele Madigan expressed her frustration with the charter commission. She noted that they still have not come up with a finished document. She told the council that she had discussed the municipal law issue with an attorney as to whether the council could be compelled to pay for a special election. She said there were cases that would support not funding the special election.
The final vote was Yepsen and Mathiesen for funding the special election and Madigan, Franck, and Scirocco opposed. The motion failed. During his discussion John Franck repeatedly referred to the expectation that this decision would end up in court.
The remarks made in the public comment period and the entire Council discussion and vote can be seen as always on the city website. The discussion and vote on funding the special election occurred during Commissioner Madigan’s agenda.