By Roz Rogoff
Even year elections againUploaded: Apr 28, 2009
Mayor Wilson is now saying that keeping San Ramon's elections in odd years could cost up to $250,000 an election. That's if there is no other State or County measures to share the cost of printing and mailing ballots in 2009.
Some of you may recall that I opposed Measure Q last year which would have switched San Ramon from odd year elections to even years. The rationale for this measure was to save money on elections. I did not object to that. I did object to skipping the 2009 election and thereby giving all City Council members an extra year in office.
When this item was on the agenda at several meetings, I urged the Council to put it on the 2009 ballot and not 2008. If the even year election measure had been put on this year's regularly scheduled city election, it probably would have passed. Even if this year's election costs $250K as Wilson projects, it would still have saved the city the $30-40K that was spent on putting the measures on the ballot in 2008. That was a clear signal that the Council wanted to skip the 2009 election and lengthen their terms.
If that wasn't clear enough, Councilmember Hudson was videoed at the January 22, 2008 meeting saying, "I wouldn't even toy with the idea of shortening terms." So Hudson was admitting that he wanted to skip the 2009 election when his seat, and Councilmember Livingstone's, would be up for re-election. A measure was required because the Mayor's terms are specified in the City Charter and can only be changed by a Charter Amendment voted on by residents.
Since most people don't attend Council meetings or even watch the taped replay on Channel 29, and most don't watch the Councilmember comments at the end of the meeting, I bought the CD of the January 22, 2008 meeting and put the clip of Hudson's comments on the Observer. I told the Council I would do that, and I put the link in the statement opposing Measure Q in the 2008 Voter Pamphlet, which Jeanne Kinney and former Mayor Curt Kinney co-signed.
There have been three measures to change San Ramon elections from odd to even years. Measure H was put on the ballot in 2002. If passed it would have skipped the 2003 election and gone straight to 2004.
Opponents of Measure H who wanted to go to even years but not lengthen terms asked the Council to take another look at the changing the election year. This resulted in Measure V, which was a non-binding advisory vote to go to even years. It passed in 2004, but candidates Hudson and Livingstone running for reelection in 2005, said it wasn't a mandate and they wanted to keep the elections in odd years.
Then last year Hudson decided the cost was too high to keep the elections in even years. So he proposed a Charter Amendment to change the Mayor's term to even years.
Here are the outcomes of the three even year ballot measures, which I copied from the Smart Voter website.
November 5, 2002 Measure H. Change Election Year and Extend Council Terms -- City of San Ramon (simple majority required to pass) 6,209 / 46.0% Yes votes ...... 7,275 / 54.0% No votes
Lost by 1066
November 2, 2004 Measure V. Elections on Even Years -- City of San Ramon (Advisory Vote Only) 10,032 / 51.6% Yes votes ...... 9,413 / 48.4% No votes
Passed by 619
November 4, 2004 Measure Q Charter Amendment Measure -- City of San Ramon (Majority Approval Required) 12262 / 49.66% Yes votes ...... 12431 / 50.34% No votes
Lost by 169
What this illustrates is that many San Ramon voters like keeping city elections in odd years, but the two elections that would have lengthened terms lost and the one advisory vote that would not have lengthened terms passed.
If the Council really wants to switch to even years fairly, they could put a Charter Amendment to change to even years by shortening the Mayor's term by one year and include shortening their own terms by one year. While it isn't necessary for voters to shorten Councilmember's terms, it would be a gesture of good faith that would help them win this time. I would support this measures and work to see that it passed. That would make 2009 the last odd year election in San Ramon, but not give a bonus year to sitting Councilmembers.
The only controversy might be shortening the Mayor's term to one year when he's limited to four two year terms in the Charter. If Wilson ran again for Mayor that would cap his total years in office at seven. Mayor Wilson wants to remove the Mayor's term limits from the Charter, which would take another Charter Amendment measure. So if the Mayor's term limits are removed, Wilson would be able to rerun again ad infinatum. I'd support that one too.
(Reposted from SanRamonObserver.org)