At the city Council meeting last night, a new plan for selecting Cameron Smyth’s replacement was proposed by Councilman Frank Ferry.
Two options were expected to be discussed, one of which being a special election and the other being council appointment of a person to fill in for the remainder of Smyth’s term which would last until April of 2008.
Public comments included calls for an election to avoid giving an appointee an unfair advantage in the next council elections, where the member could seek re-election. Comments for council appointment were mostly grounded in the belief that for such a short period of time, the estimated $175,000 cost of a special election would be unnecessary.
It had been publicized that Councilman Frank Ferry would like to have a special election, however his comments served up a surprising alternative. Ferry noted that should a special election take place, it would not be until June of 2007, leaving the council 1 member short until then. He also stressed that public inclusion in the process is absolutely necessary. So in his new plan, he proposed that the city open the application process to those who would like to fill the vacancy, and require that they garnered 25 residents’ signatures. After that, the applicants would be interviewed by 3 separate groups of citizen panels where they would be subject to a blind ranking. The top five ranked applicants would then be presented to the council, and enter a week long round of public debates and media coverage. After such time, the council would make a decision to appoint around January 2nd.
The alternative plan was a surprise to the council and the audience, but was mostly met with preliminary satisfaction.
Bob Kellar said he liked the idea, but would like to see if there was a way to streamline the process, as he believes that action needs to be taken quickly. Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean also liked the idea, but worried that the timeline would be too short. Mayor Laurene Weste was in favor of the idea, for she felt that Smyth’s replacement needed to happen as quickly as possible, but yet it still needed public involvement. She asked that they look into moving up the start date, so that the process could be finished before the holidays.
City Manager Ken Pulskamp agreed to open up the application process as soon as possible, but said that choosing the process should wait until after it is known how many applicants they will have. “You don’t have the same process for 15 applicants as you do when you have 40.”
The council agreed, and will discuss further action at their next meeting in two weeks.