In 426 days, exactly one year and two months from today, November 12th 2013,residents will again have the opportunity to vote on City Commissioners. Use the day wisely because you will not have the opportunity to vote again until November 10th 2015.
Thew absence of a vote in even number years means that residents will have no impact via the ballot box on an issue that arises or occurs in an even numbered year. One example would would the renewal of the contract with the Baldwin Library which expires in 2014.
If it is to be renewed a millage vote would be required prior to the November. If for some reason perhaps cost cutting, the commission decided not renew the contract there would be nothing the residents could do about it in 2014 and most of 2015.
The election of November of 2015 will be a most unusual election because the entire five member commission will be up for election. Two year terms are the law of the Cities Charter but the work in the new bi-annual cycle by all five candidates running at once.
Very likely before the end of the decade the commission will sponsor a charter amendment to change the term of office to four years. Then residents will vote half as much (bi-annually instead of annually) and commissioners will serve twice as long. Balance of power as the City's founders envisioned will be at thing of the past.
What do we gain from all of the above ? Many of the speakers drawn from a most unusual capacity crowd sited cost savings as a reason for making the change.
Regrettably that is not real cost savings in terms of money put in the bank or returned to residents in the form of a tax rebate. It is a euphemism for "money that will be spent elsewhere". The suggested $8000 per year savings will go quickly like ash up the chimney kindled by $15,000 consultant costs for ordinances the commission wants passed or $10,000 surveys the commission needs for bench marking.
Last night's exotic topic was the design and printing of a Welcome Brochure for the City. It seems realtors among others had been asking for one. The number 2500 was mentioned. One Commissioner said that number would last a good long time. Another Commission asked exactly how much "move in to town" action was in anticipated on an annual basis ? Hmmm. Good question. Maybe 2500 is a lot for a city of 3800.
If you think that was something you should have attended the July meeting. Discussed were distributing the Meeting Agenda Packets electronically to members of the City Commission, Planning Commission, and Zoning Board So were I-pads for the commissioners who didn't want to read the packet on on their home computer or have to print stuff . After the meeting in a conversation with a commissioner about the need he was told that the commission was not talking about "buying the commissioners I-pads" as this reporter had so breezily put it. The Commission might consider buying the I-pads for the City which would then loan them out. A big difference in everything but cost.
Then there is the business of our City needing a "brand". That will cost money too. Experts will have to be consulted, studies done, and designs submitted. How much money is yet to be determined.
Of course it would help if our little City could somehow stand out on it's own. Give the world a reason to notice us. That would certainly save money on "Welcome Brochures." If the city had an identity people would just want to live here, brochure or no brochure. In fact if the City were firing on all cylinders the idea of a brochure would rather tacky. The stuff of planned communities with pre-formed houses. You know.
Likewise it would just be expected that City Commissioners who want I-pads would just purchase them. Noblesse Oblique.
Presumably as you read this our City Commission is hard at work on such matters. As of today we will have them longer and find it more difficult to get rid of them.
And we have lost a friend, a unique,and delightfully quirky May Election. Newspapers love to report on elections and quirkiness. Many whose names begin with the word Birmingham and "something else" (like one who's name is synonym for delightfully quirky) flocked to our candidates. Now we will have to tell them that we vote at the same time as Birmingham and almost every other city in state does.
Frugality is fine especially in these times but when it comes by eliminating the expense of things most people consider essential like tidiness, good grooming, replacing the muffler, mowing the lawn or in America voting, it doesn't enhance one's social standing.