Oregon City Council on Monday voted 6-1 to place on the Nov. 6 general election ballot a proposed charter change that would extend their time in office from two years to four-year, staggered terms.
Oregon voters have overwhelmingly defeated similar proposals in the past.
Currently, all seven council seats are up for re-election every two years as dictated by the city charter.
According to the proposed charter change, three council members who received the largest number of votes at the November, 2013 general election would start to serve four-year terms on Dec. 1, 2013. The remaining four on council would serve two-year terms until November, 2015, when the election called for four-year terms.
Councilman Jerry Peach said the proposal is unnecessary and opposed extending council’s term of office.
“This has gone before the voters at least on two other occasions – once in 1990 and once in 2002. The voters, I think correctly, declined to extend the two-year terms to four-year terms. I think what we have now is working well and I won’t be supporting this measure,” said Peach.
Council President Tom Susor said he supports four-year terms.
“In Oregon, we’re always slow and concise to move. The rest of the country, the rest of the state, the majority of municipalities have moved to staggered, four-year terms, for many reasons,” said Susor, who was elected to council last November. He had served one term on council in the early 1990s before he was defeated for re-election.
Susor said a commission put together by the University of Cincinnati to look into extending terms for Cincinnati City Council found that four-year terms “build better government, create a sense of stability, and create a foundation for moving communities forward.”
“I think it also allows for a stable base to build ideas,” said Susor. “It takes a long time to make anything happen in government, and you need to be around long enough to see a project through. I think that four years gives you that opportunity.”
Mayor Mike Seferian said he was opposed to four-year terms for council because voters currently can respond more quickly on whether a council member should be re-elected.
“I like the way the system is now. I think a council person is the public’s representative to the city. The two-year term favors the public where the four-year term favors the council member. I think it’s in the best interests of the public to save that voice and have council members elected every two years so they can answer to the public at that rate,” said Seferian.
Councilman Mike Sheehy said the Senate and the House of Representatives have different terms of office. And the Oregon Mayor serves a four-year term.
“I think a four-year term for city council for both the mayor and city council is an appropriate compromise. I’m not particularly passionate about this. It is something the citizens can look again at. I think there were a lot of things on the ballot the last time. These charter changes I certainly didn’t support myself. We’ll give the citizens an opportunity to make another decision,” said Sheehy.
“Mr. Sheehy reminds us,” said Peach, “that the House of Representatives have a two-year term. It’s called `the people’s house.’ The mayor is correct. People in this community are right to think of members of council as their representatives. The mayor and administration make sure the longer term programs are programs that enjoy continuity. Moreover, if you think of the representatives of the people who served on Oregon City Council, I think the only conclusion you can come to is that there’s been a fairly steady pattern of representatives being returned to council.”