In Their Own Words
Do not forget what they said and hold them accountable!
Recently, the city of Clarksburg, West Virginia, my home town, held an election for three seats on City Council. Two incumbents decided not to run and the third lost by a slim margin. When all the votes were counted (sort of) we had three new members elected. However, the election was not without drama and controversy.The controversy: It seems there we some ballot counting and transcribing issues. Therefore one candidate called for a recount. The drama: The recount ended in a tie. The winner, a decision by City Council, was to draw names from a hat. Not an ideal solution but far better than Council picking the winner.
That was a couple days ago. We now officially have three new Council members-elect just waiting to take the oath of office. And once they take that oath, the drama will continue. They, along with the four veteran members of Council, will decide who will be mayor. We do not have direct election of the mayor. Once that has been completed, they will begin the on-the-job learning of what it means to lead and govern. It is never as easy as it seems when looking from the outside.
That said, as Steven Covey wrote, "What you do has far greater impact than what you say." During any campaign, candidates explain their platform and answer questions. As voters, we must never forget what they promised, said, and how they answered important questions. Therefore, I have reprinted verbatim, what James Marino, Lillie Scott-Junkins, and Gary Keith II said when asked their position on the following:
1. Direct Election of the Mayor. Ours is currently a 'weak' mayor system, elected by Council.
2. Term Limits. We currently do not have any limits.
3. Adopting a ward system. We currently have an at-large system.
4. Initiative, Referendum and Recall. We currently have none of the three.
Note: In the 'Direct Election of the Mayor' section, all three refer to a 'Strong Mayor' system. No one, including myself ever referred to this type of big-city power. The proposal was to keep the powers of the mayor the same as they are now, just allow the people to decide. This should have been made clearer when I first presented the issue
"In their Own Words"
1. Fully support term limits. One of the reasons we find ourselves in this mess is parasitic, career politicians. 2 terms or 8 years are plenty.
2. I support charter reform. Our charter is very well written but hasn’t been updated sine the 50’s - I believe. The more power the voters have the better. When my wife ran 4 years ago, recall referendum grew out of her circle of reform candidates, most specifically Michael Kiefer. The citizens deserve the right to be heard.
3. I’ve never put much weight in the position of Mayor. I’ve always seen her/him more as a figurehead and a position held for exposure. The mayor has a bit more influence in ways, I suppose, because of the agenda and his/her role as spokesperson. I’m not opppsed to allowing the people to chose as long as it’s not a strong mayor system. The last thing we need is our city run solely by a political puppet. The city manager should be an experienced professional with as little political interference as possible.
4. In theory the ward system sounds good, but we once had wards and because of pockets of political strongholds there was a shift to a general election. I’d definitely be willing and open to consideration. I’d think there are pros and cons to both sides, but whatever helps keep our representatives most accountable to the voter is always best.
5. I think the main push is to get more voters engaged. The best way to do this is changing our elections to coincide with the dates of the major elections and to STOP tucking them away in the off season.
1. I support accountability to the voter first and foremost. That’s what keeps our system on course. It’s the checks and balance of the people that steer the ship. I support an overview of the charter by council with proper legal assistance. I support giving the voter the right of Initiative, Referendum and Recall.
2. I support term limits.
3. I do not support a strong mayor government for several reasons, but have no problem allowing the people the choice of mayor if that can be achieved fairly. The mayor is primarily a ceremonial figurehead for the city. I think we have more important issues to tackle.
4. I’d like to hear more and study up about changing to a ward system. No system will work properly without informed, engaged voters. I am not opposed to it, but prefer having the 7 best options rather than eliminating ones because of conflicting addresses. What if our three best candidates are all from the same ward and other wards are weak?
5. Like Jimmy Marino said, let’s get our elections in line with the state elections to make them more accessible and convenient. I am a strong advocate for full transparency and accountability. I see how that works in all groups from families to government. The more honest we are and the more we keep each other on the right path, the better we are together.
Gary Keith II
1. The direct election of a mayor is something I have went back and forth with a bit, because I HATE strong mayor systems where the mayor has additional powers. I told several people towards the start of this cycle I would never be a for an elected mayor because we have enough corruption already and we don't need another opportunity for anyone to have any additional powers. I have since loosened up on this a bit after talking to people, and learning that we can write in whatever restrictions we want if we change the charter. So I am for an elected mayor if the powers are not increased! We need checks and balances, it is good that you must have 4 votes to do anything, it should stay that way. I think this also shows I am not rigid on issues if we can find a middle ground!
2. Initiative, Referendum, and Recall – I agree that this is needed, this seems like one of those things that most people probably think they already have the right to do, but if they went to do it they would be surprised to find out they don't! This IS the fastest way to restore the power of government back into the hands of the people. Like Will said! Initiative allows the citizens to petition the council to a vote for ordinances, Referendum allows the citizens to petition and force a special or regular election for ordinances or charter amendments. Recall is the path to take out the trash if you accidentally elect a liar! These are common sense things that we should have, period.
3. The ward system is something I am not sure about. I think it is unnecessary truthfully. I am not really "against it" but it seems like an unnecessary fix to a problem we don't have. I feel like wards are important in cities where one class is dominating another due to geographical location. That is not really the case here. The problems are pretty evenly spread out. The problems are on almost every street and almost every neighborhood. Plus with the large number of neighborhoods that we have I don't see how we could evenly break it up so it would make sense. I also think it would create more opportunity for council people to pass the buck and only focus on their ward, which in the end would be more divisive. In the current system every council person has to answer to every voter. I think that is more important in this world that everyone wants to blame someone else. In a ward system you would only have a vote on one member of council and not have the power as a voter to demand accountability from the whole council. Also look at the group we have running right now, and the history of council, we do not have a pattern of one neighborhood or one class running this city. It has always been pretty naturally spread out.
4. Term limits are one of the first things I brought up when I considered running. I feel term limits should be installed for EVERY political position in this country and this one is no different. Career politicians dug in, looking out more for themselves than the greater good is the number one problem in this country! I would like to see a system in place where 4 council people are up for re-election every 2 years. Instead of the current 3 one election and 4 the other. The people should have the opportunity to swing the majority every election if that is what they choose to do. So the way you make that happen is simple, the lowest vote getter in 4th place in every election only gets a 2 year term. The other 3 get a 4 year term. With a MAX of 10 years in office no matter how the math works out. So if you won a 4 year seat on your first and second run you would only be eligible to serve 8 years. The only way you could even squeeze out 10 is if you won the 2 year seat in one of your first two elections. Nobody should be in this position over a decade! If we started electing the mayor I guess that would also solve this issue in a way. If that election was only 2 years the people would still have a chance for a majority change every 2 years if they were not happy with the results.
There you have it! We have heard what they have said. Now, we will wait to see what they do.
If you would like read my personal thoughts on these topics, on this site, go to Archives (Sidebar), June 1, 2019.