Through no fault of its own, Bainbridge Island finds itself in one of the most ludicrous situations known in these parts for many a moon. Next November, it’s possible that islanders will vote for the city’s next mayor on the same ballot that offers them the opportunity to expunge the office. Eradicate it.
Let’s see. If we decide to discard the mayor’s position in our government at the same time we elect one, does that mean we’d have a mayor emeritus. No, probably just eight council members instead of the regular seven. That should be fun.
As we all must kinow by now, a sufficient number of disgruntled citizens signed a petition earlier this year that engendered a measure asking voters if they want to replace the mayor-council form of government with the council-manager version. Unfortunately, a very bad state law created in 2004 says it can only be done in November of an odd year. So unless the city decides to wait until 2011, the aforementioned discombobulation would occur in November 2009.
To its credit, the city council unanimously approved a resolution this week that would ask the state Legislature to amend the law and allow a May 19 election on the change-of-government petition. (Holding the election in August is also a possibility, though it could cause some unforseeable problems with the mayoral election).
Unfortunately, the Legislature has much bigger fish to fry, including what to do about a $5 billion deficit. Our representatives for the 23rd Legislative District are pessimistic about an emergency bill being passed, though everyone agrees that the law has its flaws and Bainbridge’s situation presents a strong test case for changing it.
You would think that legislators would realize the ridiculousness of having two competing issues on the same ballot and act accordingly in order to avoid having an electoral event in the state that is pure folly. Problems that would arise from having a new mayor elected and the position being eliminated certainly could be solved without too much trouble, but the farce would lie in the deed itself.
If the two issues are on the same ballot, it’s highly probable that they would taint the election merely by their presence. For example, a voter, who might otherwise prefer the council-manager form of government or is at least neutral about the two forms, ends up voting for a mayoral candidate who’s a friend or acquaintance. So, in order to ensure that the vote counts, the person would have to vote against the petition. In other words, the fate of the petition could be decided by a related issue on the ballot. In essence, in one way or another the two measures would be pitted against each other.
If that’s the case, and it very well might be, then the spirit of the law regarding the petition will have been violated. More than a thousand people signed the petition and placing it on the same ballot with a contrasting measure would be an insult to those islanders and thousands more that undoubtedly will vote on the issue. It would be a joke, but not the kind that causes laughter.
Yes, it is a big deal, and legislators should address it even if they think they’ve got better things to do. It’s their law.