CITY CHARTER REVIEW: Hearing on potential council election changes TBD

After kicking off a review of the Keizer city charter with a bang in November, the members of the task force slowed things down a bit at its Dec. 11 meeting. 

The possibility of electing councilors by wards or districts received a lot of attention a month prior, the group is postponing that conversation for later and will likely hold a public hearing once a draft of the revised charter is available. 

“I think it would be something we’d want to hear from a number of people regarding. There are any number of ways we could change it if we don’t feel the current way [of electing councilors] is adequately representing people,” said Kathy Lincoln, a member of the task force. 

In addition to dividing the city up into wards, other election options include ranked choice voting. Any switch would likely require some education for voters before a public hearing.

Councilor Kim Freeman said it would be better to have a working draft of the document before the group begins holding hearings on individual topics. 

“I think we should keep going and then present all of the recommendations at once. I think our citizens deserve our best work possible and some of the ideas are going to take time to research,” Freeman said. 

No major immediate revisions were discussed during the meeting, but members of the task force also briefly considered altering the terms of city councilors. There were no motions to change the current terms of two years for mayors and four years for city councilors, but task force member Pat Fisher floated the idea of making some council seats two-year stints. Fisher said it might broaden the pool of potential candidates without as much time to commit to public service. 

Freeman and Garry Whalen, another member of the task force and former city councilor, thought it would be a difficult change.

“I like the idea, but I think it would be really hard for someone to come in for only two years,” Freeman said. 

“It takes 12 to 18 months before you are really contributing,” added Whalen. “I think [four-year terms] create a more educated and stable set of decision-makers.