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November 27, 2013

Vote on election year change put off for now

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

WARREN — A vote to change election years in the city of Warren that possibly could have saved money and would have extended the terms of all elected officials by one year has been scuttled, at least for now.

A vote on a resolution to change the city’s election date from odd- to even-numbered years was removed from the City Council’s meeting agenda Nov. 26 without discussion.

The change would have moved the city’s next election from November 2015 to November 2016.

Proponents of the switch, permitted under a new state law, said it would have put city elections in line with the presidential election cycle and resulted in a cost savings for the city of at least $300,000. Some suggested it would also increase voter participation in city elections because of a typically higher turnout.

However, other officials — including City Clerk Paul Wojno, tasked with managing Warren’s local elections — said any savings would be difficult to predict due to unforeseen costs, including the possibility of double ballots.

Those opposed to the change also cited potential voter confusion as a result of an increased number of federal, state and local candidates on the ballot; higher costs for those wishing to run for office due to the increased number of likely voters that would have to be targeted in campaign mailings; and a violation of the city’s voter-approved term limits enacted in 1998 that restrict Warren’s elected officials to 12 years in office over three four-year terms.

At-large City Council member Kelly Colegio openly opposed the proposal when it went before the City Council in September and again at the council’s committee of the whole session held at the Owen Jax Recreation Center last month.

“It ended up being pulled from the agenda. I just let it go gracefully,” Colegio said Nov. 27.

She previously called a vote to extend elected officials’ terms of office without a vote of the people “heinous,” and said voters would have a right to oppose the move by another means, including a potential recall.

Warren City Council Secretary Scott Stevens, elected at-large in 2011 as the council’s top vote-getter, and District 2 City Council member Keith Sadowski said previously it was worth exploring the concept if it meant saving between $300,000 and $500,000 for Warren taxpayers.

Mayor Jim Fouts declined to fully oppose or endorse the concept but said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Fouts added, “It’s not something that I would push. You’ve got arguments for and against it. You get more people out to vote in city elections. You’d save a few hundred thousand dollars. The downside is city elections get lost in a conglomeration of all elections.”

The item was removed from the agenda and not tabled, meaning it would have to be reintroduced as an agenda item ahead of the next meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 10.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.