Ann Arbor Ballot Proposal: Increasing Term Length for Mayor & City Council
There is one City of Ann Arbor proposal for voters to decide on Nov. 8 – to increase the length of mayor and city council terms to four years, with elections to be held only in even-numbered years.
Remember: Ann Arbor voters will also be weighing in on two Washtenaw County proposals and a proposal by the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan.
ANN ARBOR BALLOT PROPOSAL:
Ann Arbor Mayor & City Council Term Length
Each of the city’s five wards has two councilmembers, with one of those two seats elected in odd-numbered years and the other seat elected in even-numbered years. So each year, one seat from each of the five wards is up for election. In addition, Ann Arbor’s mayor is elected in even-numbered years, including this year. All terms are currently for two years.
Still following? Great. On Nov. 8, voters will be asked to change the city charter to increase all terms for mayor and city council to four years. Eventually, those elections would happen only in even-numbered years, starting in 2018.
The ballot proposal explains that the mayor and 5 councilmembers elected in 2016 would still serve two-year terms, through November 2018. The 5 councilmembers elected in 2017 would serve three-year terms, through November 2020. But starting in 2018, the mayor and half of the council seats would be elected to four-year terms in even-numbered years coinciding with Michigan gubernatorial elections (2018, 2022, 2026, etc.) with the other half of council seats elected in even-numbered years coinciding with U.S. presidential elections (2020, 2024, 2028, etc.)
Two committees have been formed related to this proposal. A2Accountability.org, with Kathy Griswold as treasurer, opposes the proposal. Citizens for Voter Turnout, with Joan Lowenstein serving as treasurer, supports the proposal. Its website is betterturnout.org.
- Mayor & 10 city council seats (two from each of the city’s 5 wards)
- Two-year terms
- Mayor and half of the council seats are elected in even-numbered years. The other half of the city council seats are elected in odd-numbered years.
- Mayor & 10 city council seats (two from each of the city’s 5 wards) – unchanged from current configuration
- Four-year terms
- Mayor and half of the council (five seats, one from each ward) would be elected in even-numbered years coinciding with Michigan gubernatorial elections (2018, 2022, 2026, etc.)
- Half of the council (five seats, one from each ward) would be elected in even-numbered years coinciding with U.S. presidential elections (2020, 2024, 2028, etc.)
Why the change? Supporters argue that this will increase the number of voters who cast ballots in the mayoral and city council races, because turnout in even-numbered years is typically greater than in odd-numbered years. Opponents say that four-year terms will decrease accountability and that there are other ways to increase turnout.
At their July 7, 2016 meeting, the city council voted 7-4 to place this proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot. It was supported by mayor Christopher Taylor and councilmembers Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Kirk Westphal (Ward 2), Zach Ackerman (Ward 3), Julie Grand (Ward 3), Chip Smith (Ward 5), and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5). Voting against it were Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Graydon Krapohl (Ward 4).
At that same July 7 meeting, the council rejected a companion proposal that would have asked voters to switch to nonpartisan mayor/council elections. That vote was 4-7, gaining support from only Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Kirk Westphal (Ward 2) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5). Opponents argued that it is important for voters to know candidates’ party affiliations. Ann Arbor is one of only three cities in Michigan that hold partisan elections. (Trivia: the other cities are Ionia and Ypsilanti.)
Except for Jane Lumm, who ran as an Independent, all current city councilmembers and the mayor are Democrats.
Here's exactly what you'll see on the ballot:
AMENDMENT TO INCREASE THE TERM OF THE MAYOR TO FOUR YEARS AND COUNCIL MEMBERS FROM TWO TO FOUR-YEAR STAGGERED TERMS
It is proposed Sections 12.4, 13.2 and 13.4 of the Ann Arbor City Charter be amended and Section 13.1 be deleted to provide a four-year term for Mayor and four-year staggered terms for Council members. Currently the Mayor has a two-year term and Council members have two-year staggered terms. If approved by the voters, Mayor and Council members elected November 8, 2016 would serve a two-year term. Council members elected November 7, 2017 would serve a three-year term. Four year terms would commence with 2018 elections.
Shall this proposed amendment to the Ann Arbor City Charter be adopted?
In the News: Ann Arbor Mayor & City Council Term Length
Against Four-Year City Council Terms (How The Michigan Daily Gets It Wrong) – Medium (column by Dave Askins), Nov. 3, 2016
Editorial: Extending term length favors democracy – Michigan Daily, Nov. 2, 2016
Ballot proposal to extend City Council terms draws opposition – Michigan Daily, Oct. 13, 2016
2 groups take different sides on Ann Arbor election reform proposal – MLive, Oct. 10, 2016
Four more years? Next month, voters will get a chance to change the way city council is elected – Ann Arbor Observer, October 2016
League of Women Voters forum (video) – Community Television Network, Sept. 26, 2016
Ann Arbor voters will decide on city election reform in November – MLive, July 7, 2016
For a quick explanation of the proposal, check out this short video produced by students in Skyline High School's Communication, Media & Public Policy magnet program!
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