City officials are weighing a plan to consolidate elections in the city of Phoenix -- one that could give Mayor Phil Gordon and certain council members an extra two years in office without being forced to run for reelection, New Times has learned.
On January 9, a group called "Phoenix Election Consolidation Committee" quietly filed papers with the city clerk, establishing a political committee to support a new ballot issue.
Currently, council terms are staggered, with some members due up for reelection at the end of this year and some (including Gordon) due in 2011. Sources tell New Times that the committee hopes to change the set-up so that everybody's terms expire at once, thereby saving the city the expense of twice the number of elections.
But here's where we could get some opposition: Rather than have the 2011 folks run for an abbreviated two-year term, we're told that the new plan would just push them back to 2013 -- meaning those lucky council members and the mayor would get six-year terms.
If what we're understanding is correct, council members Thelda Williams, Maria Baier, Claude Mattox, and Michael Nowakowski could all get a two-year bonus. But the scenario would probably have the biggest impact on the mayor. Technically, he's due to be term-limited out of office after two four-year terms. Handing him an extra two years would surely cause some controversy. (See: Bloomberg, Mike.)
City Clerk Mario Paniagua told us that, based on the scenario we describe, the change would require a charter amendment. That means we the voters, not the Council, would ultimately have the finally say on the plan.
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It's still unclear whether the committee plans to gather the approximately 15,000 signatures needed to put a charter amendment on the ballot -- or whether it hopes to persuade Council members to refer the issue to the ballot. Considering that it would give many Council members an extra two years in office, we're guessing the measure's backers will opt for the latter -- and have an easy time doing it.
To get any charter amendments on the ballot this fall, Paniagua says, the Council might have to make a referral by early March.
We've got a ton of calls out on this one, so we'll keep you posted as we learn more...