Discussion and Action – Council Direction Regarding Mayoral Term/Possible Question on the November 2014 Election.

Livingston, California

Meeting Date:  January 21, 2014

Agenda Item #14. Discussion and Action – Council Direction Regarding Mayoral Term/Possible Question on the November 2014 Election.

Note from TheGardeningSnail. This is another Item from the Agenda Packet that did not come with a Staff Report. So, with the permission of Mike McGuire, I am going to have him give you some Background and Recommendations as contained in his article titled:

Livingston deserves political reform

On Tuesday, it is possible the Livingston City Council, at the request of Mayor Pro-tempore Gurpal Samra, will direct members of the city staff to study the possibility of placing a measure on the ballot changing the term of mayor from a two-year term to a four-year term in the California town.

Several years ago, the two-year term was approved by Livingston voters and there is ample evidence two years is sufficient.

Members of the US House of Representatives serve two-year terms. They select their leaders every two years.

Members of the California State Assembly also serve two-year terms, and they also select their leaders every two years.

Members of the state Senate serve four-year terms but select their leaders every two years.

Members of the US Senate serve six-year terms but select their leaders every two years.

Members of the Livingston Union School District Governing Board, Merced County Supervisors and Merced Union High School District board of trustees serve four-year terms but select their leaders every two years.

The two-year term for mayor should remain as is, to enable Livingston voters to change the leader every two years, if they so choose, just as often as leaders at most other levels of government.

There are steps to political reform the Livingston City Council can explore, however, to help make local government more accountable to the people of Livingston.

These steps include limiting the number of years one person may serve on the city council, creating districts for electing members to the city council, instituting requirements that the city clerk perform duties assigned, and strengthening the stated role of the city treasurer.

Term limits

Several years ago, when then-Mayor Russ Winton announced he would not run for re-election to the city council, he noted he had served two four-year terms and that “eight is enough.”

There are sound reasons for limiting the number of years one can serve, the most obvious being that if a man or woman cannot accomplish what he or she intended in eight years, it is unlikely the incumbent will see success if the service is extended and additional four, eight, 12 or how many more years one wishes to add.

Additionally, even in a small town, it is possible for individuals to serve so long on the council that they, in a sense, can succeed in building a self-perpetuating political machine that is more exclusive than inclusive.

There are many younger people in Livingston who can step forward, listen to all sides, and make decisions in the best interests of their community. Steps should be taken to allow them to do so.

Council districts

The mayor and members of the city council are elected at large. Under such a system, it is possible – and, historically, has sometimes been a fact – that all or most elected Livingston officials live within a few blocks of each other.

Drawing four districts within the city limits that would each select one person to the city council would enable more neighborhood-type representation on the council. The influence of people who live in older areas of Livingston would be balanced by people who live in newer areas, and the opportunity for all Livingstonians to be represented and heard would be increased.

The mayor should continue to be elected at large as the chosen leader of all combined areas.

Clerk and treasurer accountability

The city clerk and city treasurer are charged with the responsibility for carrying out a variety of duties but, in practice, are not required to do so.

The checks the city cuts each month for the clerk and treasurer are small, but Livingston should expect performance of duty.

The clerk and treasurer should, at the least, be present at city council meetings and be prepared to respond to questions raised in the audience about matters under the oversight.

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