Do you lie awake at night wondering: What is the purpose of the College Park Electoral Commission? Is it to check off a box? To give the Mayor and Council a buffer when they vote in favor of four-year terms? Is it to promote a democratic process? You probably don’t lose any sleep over this latest attempt to change the City charter, however, we must ask the questions.
On February 11, the Commission held its first public forum to allow residents to voice their thoughts on the viability of four-year terms and staggering those terms. Surprisingly, only 10 long-time residents showed up on that miserable, rainy evening. Only seven of those spoke to the issues. ALL seven opposed four-year terms for varying reasons.
One resident noted that two-year terms have worked well since the City’s founding. In fact, in only a handful of instances was the incumbent voted out of office permitting the official to remain in office for a term or multiple terms.
Longer terms would be a strong disincentive for many to run, student or not. Living in such a transient area, it is implausible to insist on four-year terms and would discourage community engagement, said another resident.
I pointed out that a move to staggered terms would, without a doubt, be inefficient and not cost-effective. City staff and the Board of Elections Supervisors would still be responsible for conducting elections every two years while the incumbents would only campaign and fund raise every four years.
The proposal for four-year terms was first brought up by my District 4 colleague, Dustyn Kujawa, when I was still on Council in 2017. Some of my colleagues complained of having to raise funds and knock on doors too frequently. The same junior councilmember complained of the learning curve. I could only shake my head in disbelief — in life there are usually learning curves. This one can be reduced by participating in City committees, attending Council meetings and joining civic associations.
Following the public forum, the Commission held a meeting at which time newcomer to the City, Commissioner, Brooks Boliek, pointed out the comments coming in online were mostly in favor of four-year terms. Former Councilmember, John Krouse, requested that the verbatim transcripts of the comments be made available on the City’s website. The Commission voted in favor of his motion.
A second and possibly third and fourth forum were discussed. Boliek was strongly opposed to holding more than two. Commissioner, Nora Eidelman, spoke in favor of more public engagement. The possibility of multiple forums was left open. The next forum is set for March 11, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. at Davis Hall.
Special thanks to Oscar Gregory who taped the public forum. It is available at the link below.