WILL GOODYEAR'S MAYOR AND COUNCIL BE FORCED TO VOTE TO CUT THEIR TERMS? AND THE BIGGER QUESTION IS...
Opinion Piece by Jen Barber
Status quo, you know, is Latin for 'the mess we're in'. ~Ronald Reagan
What are the odds Goodyear's Mayor and Council will be forced to vote to reduce their terms in office?
Or... what are the odds they'll vote to add extra time to extend their terms?
And how many laws will need to be changed to do so?
It occurred to me in the middle of the night that this might be a real-case scenario in our All-America City.
In the "Goodyear Gold Mine" blog from June 9th, I casually mentioned former Council candidate Sara Gilligan went to Council to speak in favor of moving Goodyear's elections to even-numbered years. I joked about grabbing the popcorn to sit back and watch as Goodyear has avoided this issue for several years. Now that a resident has come forth, it's not so funny. They've gotta respond.
The concern: Currently, Goodyear's City Charter mandates elections be held in the spring of odd-numbered years. Doing so mandates tax payers fork out thousands of dollars to hold independent elections as the State's elections are in the fall of even-numbered years.
We reviewed the tape. Gilligan specifically asked Council to look into what it would take to align Goodyear's election with the State election cycle.
Gilligan argued paying roughly $180,000 for Goodyear's Spring Primary and General elections could be avoided by shifting the City election to coincide with the State's election cycle.
West Valley Families was further thrown into the mix on this issue when Gilligan tagged us in a post yesterday asking for more information. Gilligan posted she received a reply from the Goodyear City Clerk stating the election cycle is stated in the City Charter. But, Gilligan asked us if we had any further info. So, we did our own research.
Well, the City Clerk is right. As we pointed out in our "Goodyear Election Cycle Concerns" blog, "Goodyear's City Charter ARTICLE IX. SECTION 5. states 'Primary elections shall be held on the second Tuesday in March of odd-number years preceding the General election on the third Tuesday in May of odd-number years.'"
What I assume Gilligan wants to know is why Council hasn't made an effort to change this law.
GOODYEAR LOOKING AT THE OPTIONS
I was blown away last night when I was told the City is taking this issue to a Council worksession in August. We were first to report it on our Facebook page here.
Shifting Goodyear's election cycle has come up numerous times, as I've reported this week.
2011: 'Goodyear Votes' grassroots organization called for the change in Goodyear's voting cycle.
2012: Goodyear watched patiently as Phoenix and Tucson challenged a new State law requiring cities to have their elections only in even-numbered years.
2014: The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled 17 Charter Cities, (including cities like Goodyear), can hold elections when they want.
2017: Resident Sara Gilligan formally asks Goodyear City Council to review Goodyear's election cycle.
PROS, CONS, AND THE EGO
Some elected public servants feel the independent spring election avoids "voter fatigue." Let's turn to Tucson for a closer look at this argument. Arizona Capitol Times reported Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin, who failed to urge then-Governor Jan Brewer to veto the election law, "pointed out that state law requires federal and state races to be placed first on the ballot. 'Rankin said forcing consolidated elections would result in “the local issues being on Page 20 before anybody gets to them.” And he said pushing those local races the bottom would result in voters losing interest — and not finishing the ballot — before they get to those local races.'"
For elected politicians, whose terms end in odd-numbered years, their terms would either have to end earlier... or be extended further. And what sitting Council member would vote to end his or her term early?
THE $64,000 QUESTION... OR $180,000 CONSEQUENCE...
If Goodyear's Mayor and Council were forced to vote on this issue, would any of them have a conflict of interest?
We were told the process for Goodyear City Staff and Council to review the election cycle would "be complete prior to the next election scheduled in 2019."
STOP THE PRESSES!
Mayor Georgia Lord and Council members Pizzillo, Campbell, and Hampton were just voted in spring of 2017. Their terms end 2021. That's an odd-numbered year.
A vote to align Goodyear's election with the State election cycle sooner rather than later could, potentially, require the Council to vote to terminate these four seats early.
Council, also could vote whether to "extend" the terms to 2022. You read that right. They might choose to add more time to their terms.
1. City Charter states "The Mayor shall be elected for a term of four years but shall not serve more than two consecutive four-year terms."
Georgia Lord was just elected to her second four-year term. Extending her term would require changing this Charter's ordinance, as well.
Don't forget, Mayor Lord was elected in 2011 to fill a two-year unexpired term when then-Mayor Cavanaugh unexpectedly stepped down. So, she's already served two additional years.
2. No person shall be eligible to serve in the office of Council member for more than three (3) consecutive terms, but there shall be no limit on the number of non-consecutive terms.
Council members Pizzillo and Campbell were just elected to their third four-year terms. Extending their terms would require changing this law in the City Charter, too.
3. If the effort is made to extend these terms, you've got the Mayor and three council members who'd have their seats affected by the vote... and, in my humble opinion, could be considered a conflict of interest.
I mean, what politician - who's spent thousands of dollars campaigning to get the seat in the first place - would want a shorter term? Wouldn't one's ego want to "extend" the term? Just a hypothetical question.
To boot; Having four members of the Council recuse themselves from such vote would mean there's not a quorum. No quorum = no vote.
WHAT'S THE ALTERNATIVE?
Shortening or extending the length of these terms of Mayor Lord and Council members Pizzillo, Campbell, and Hampton is only one scenario.
The Council could also choose to:
*Ummm... Goodyear has a problem. While confirming Council members' terms, I found a major error on Wally Campbells' profile.
JEN'S TWO CENTS
Mayor Georgia Lord is a very popular mayor. And for good reason. She's a good leader and devotes all of her energy into helping Goodyear. She presents well and it shows. I truly wouldn't be surprised if she gets little resistance from the possibility of her term being extended. The City has a theory that when people aren't complaining... they must be happy. It's been a long time since this City has witnessed a real stir.
I do find this additional coincidence interesting. Just moments before Sara Gilligan took the podium to express her thoughts on the election cycle, Mayor Lord was discussing Council procedure on "Comments from the Floor". She said...
"But as long as I’m the mayor, and I will be that for four years more, we will do the call like we’ve all done.” Mayor Georgia Lord, June 5, 2017
Did Mayor Lord know what Gilligan was going to propose? Is she saying she won't go down without a fight? Or was this purely a coincidence?
I'd also like to add my thoughts on comments made by a west Valley newspaper here.
The writer states, "We hounded the city clerk for a couple of days..."
The #1 rule about government is that nothing happens quickly. The City Clerk most likely had to run all of this up the totem pole and have it settle again before issuing any statements. I know from personal knowledge that the clerk's office is a professional, well-run, well-oiled machine and has been since I first was introduced to it in 2008. "Hounding" the city clerk isn't going to get this going quicker.
As I stated yesterday, we've been told the City Council and City Staff will review this issue at its August 21st worksession. This process could take nearly two years. We'll be watching.
And for what it's worth... I don't have a horse in this race. Just curious to see what the City chooses to do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Barber is a Goodyear resident resident of almost 20 years and a retired broadcast news journalist. Involved in various nonprofit and city organizations since 2008, Barber has a unique view of what's happening in the West Valley of Arizona.