Voters on Tuesday approved a city charter amendment that will extend a council member’s time in office from two years to four-year, staggered terms.
According to the Lucas County Board of Elections unofficial results, there were 5,127, or 58.39 percent of votes cast in support of the measure, while 3,653, or 41.61 percent, of votes were opposed.
The change replaces the current language in the city charter calls for all seven council seats to be up for re-election every two years.
The charter amendment, which was Issue 4 on the ballot, will now call for three council members who received the largest number of votes at the November, 2013 general election to serve four year terms starting on Dec. 1, 2013. The remaining four on council will serve two-year terms until November, 2015, when the four year terms begin.
Oregon voters have overwhelmingly defeated similar proposals in the past.
So why did voters this year overwhelmingly approve of the charter change?
Oregon Council President Tom Susor, who introduced the ordinance to council this summer to place the charter change on the ballot, said there were a few reasons why the measure passed this time around.
“First of all, there’s a generation of new voters now,” said Susor. “The last time it was on the ballot was 10 years ago.”
Secondly, it was the only local issue on the ballot.
“In the past, the charter change proposal was always coupled with other issues to convolute direction,” said Susor. “The voters are more cautious about changing a charter. They like to get one challenge at a time, it appears to me. They obviously had a good look at this. There wasn’t any real robust campaign over it.”
In addition, voter turnout was higher because the ballot included the presidential election, which usually draws more to the polls, he said. “When everyone gets a chance to vote, I think you see what people really want.”
Susor said he was a little nervous on the night of the election when he saw that voters in Lucas County were defeating State Issue 1, which called for a convention to revise, alter or amend the Ohio Constitution, and Issue 2, which would have created a state-funded commission to draw legislative and congressional districts.
“I was really shocked because I knew Issue 1 was going down, and if we got a `no’ on Issue 2, I figured then it would be an easy `no’ on Issue 4. So it’s gives me great faith in the Oregon voter that they are educated, astute, and would like to see some things progress a little better. They feel this is a more progressive form of government.”
Susor said the charter change brings the city into line with other communities that have four year, staggered council terms.
“It seems to be working everywhere else in the county. It’s more the norm than not. The four year staggered terms is what everyone appears to be going to, and it seems to be successful in those other places. I think maybe it’s time for us to do things differently,” he said.
The four year staggered terms, he hopes, will also allow council members more time to address larger issues instead of worrying about whether they will get re-elected in two years.
He cited as an example his proposal to construct a multi-use recreation/community facility in the city. In March, the Oregon Recreation and Parks Committee held a public hearing to gauge whether there was public support for such a facility.
“If I’m going to make a dramatic change in recreation, it’s going to darn well take more than a couple of years to do it. So you can focus on some major task and hopefully we can make some progress in a positive direction,” said Susor.
The amendment could also get more people involved in running for council, he added.
“If we can peak interest in becoming involved, then that’s a good thing. And I think that’s what the voters think,” he said.
Opponents of the measure thought the two year election cycle gave voters the power to respond sooner and defeat members of council of whom they did not approve.