November 2015 Special Election Ballot Questions

The Council will soon decide what charter amendment questions to ask voters during the November 2015 special election. The final ballot language will be approved on June 16. Until then, keep emailing the Council at council@flagstaffaz.gov requesting to put forward only a single question to ratify future election dates to be in August/ November of even numbered years. Ask the Council to make sure the November ballot does not include a question that could change the term of Mayor from current 2 to 4 years.

Explanations:

The substantive charter amendments that on May 26 the Council directed the City staff to prepare for the November 2015 election include questions whether:

  1. to hold local elections in spring of odd years (starting with spring 2017) – Yes/ No
  2. to hold local elections in fall of even years (starting with fall 2016) – Yes/No
  3. to extend the authority to call a special meeting to City Manager with an advanced notice of 24 hours – Yes/No
  4. to transfer the power to establish Personnel Rules and Regulations (known as Flagstaff Employee Handbook of Regulations) from the Council to City Manager – Yes/No

 

Two additional amendments of a procedural character (not impacting the City governance in a substantive way) are also proposed for the 2015 election and relate to the election dates and Personnel Rules.

#1 and #2: Anybody who believes in the power of democracy should favor holding elections when voter turnout can be maximized. Holding local elections to coincide with state and federal elections attracts the most voters and thus fall elections in even numbered years (starting with fall 2016) are in Flagstaff’s best interest. In addition to voter turnout benefits, fall elections are the least expensive for taxpayers and keep the Councilmembers’ terms closest to voter-approved 4 years. Should both questions appear on the ballot in November, vote:

  • YES to fall elections of even years
  • NO to spring elections of odd years

#3: Extending the authority to call a special meeting to City Manager allows the City to operate with more efficiency. The amendment would strengthen the role of City Manager, which can have its own unintended consequences. Should the question advance to the ballot, vote NO.

#4: By transferring the power to establish Personnel Rules from the Council to City Manager, the charter would again strengthen the role of City Manager and remove important policy oversight from Council’s purview. Among others, Personnel Rules include policies that affect employees’ pay and benefits and employees’ ability to participate in elections as voters and candidates. This amendment would further erode the powers of the Council as representatives of the Flagstaff’s voters in an important area of labor policies. Should the question made it to the ballot vote:

  • NO to transfer of powers to City Manager over Personnel Rules and Regulation

At this point, the Council did not advance to the ballot a proposed amendment to change the term of Mayor from 2 to 4 years. But until the Council adopts an actual resolution that sets the ballot questions, this still can change. There are a number of reasons why the current, 2-year mayoral term works well for Flagstaff:

  • Every two years, Flagstaff voters have a chance to change the Council majority and express their approval or dissatisfaction with the Council’s work. Making the term of Mayor the same as the term of councilmembers would give voters this opportunity only every 4 years.
  • Because of the nature of the office, Mayor gets a lot of media and community exposure, giving the incumbent advantage over challengers. The notion that it takes time to build the Council leadership and that elections every 2 years interfere with that is baseless. In Flagstaff’s history, no incumbent Mayor has ever lost to a challenger. In reality, every Mayor who had wanted, served at least four years. No need to fix what is not broken.
  • Chairing the Council meetings and managing agendas gives Mayor more political power. With greater power comes greater accountability and the current 2-year term reflects that adequately.
  • High stakes elections attract more voters and having mayoral elections every two years ensures a greater voter engagement also when it comes to council seats.