rudent financial policy

Bill Christopher, Crosscurrents
Posted 1/16/13

Life is full of trade-offs especially in changing times. Issues that come before elected officials, such as city council members, are no different. …

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rudent financial policy


Life is full of trade-offs especially in changing times.

Issues that come before elected officials, such as city council members, are no different. You have to weigh the pros and cons before making a wise decision.

One of those situations was scheduled to be discussed and decided at the Jan. 14 Westminster council meeting before press time.

Based on an earlier discussion at a December study session (where no formal votes can be taken), the council was divided on whether to change an existing law which requires a minimum of 40 percent of the vote for any mayoral candidate to be the winner.

Given the distinct possibility of at least three candidates running for mayor in the November 2013 municipal election, there is the possibility that no candidate would achieve the 40 percent minimum vote. If so, what would happen?

An extra $100,000 cost

If none of the candidates received this arbitrary minimum voter support, the existing ordinance mandates a run-off city election between the two top vote getters. According to City Clerk Linda Yeager, the cost to Westminster taxpayers would be an extra $100,000.

And it should be noted that the adopted 2013 budget does not include this extra expense. The budget contemplates the single regular municipal election cost to conduct an election to elect three city councillors and the mayor.

If council decides to stay with the existing 40 percent minimum mandate, the election cost would have to either come from the general fund contingency account or other approved budget expenses would have to be cut to fund the second election. Plus, the two top candidates would have to fund a second campaign.

It’s not magical or sacred

Is a run-off election really necessary? Just because the ordinance has been on the city’s books for the past 18 years since the voters approved a charter change whereby the people elect the mayor instead of the seven-member council, it does not mean you have to maintain the status quo.

It needs to be noted that Westminster had three mayoral candidates running in 2003 with one candidate receiving 56 percent of the vote.

In 2013, I will bet you at least three candidates will run. So, what is magic or sacred about a minimum of 40 percent? It is not magical or sacred.

If applied, it could produce a winner without a clear majority of the vote while a run-off election would produce a majority-winner among the two candidates. But I say, so what?

Changing times warrant change

Given the continuing soft economy and tight budgets which have left a lot of city employees unemployed with layoffs and city service cut-backs including popular programs, adding an extra $100,000 in cost at this time is not a prudent way of doing the city’s business.

Eliminating the 40 percent minimum mandate expense in Westminster mayoral races is good business for the taxpayers. Council needs to deal with current times and situations and not rely on an arbitrary policy that was made 18 years ago when city finances were a lot different.

Bill Christopher is former city manager of Westminster and used to represent District J on the RTD board of directors.


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