Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - October 15, 2010

Editorial: Yes on S for savings in Palo Alto elections

Measure S would amend the City Charter to move City Council elections from the traditional odd-year time to even years, lining up with state and national elections.

Former Councilwoman and Mayor Liz Kniss, now on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, raised the issue last summer as a cost-saving efficiency move, and the council majority subsequently endorsed the change and placed it on the Nov. 2 ballot. Kniss initially estimated the city could save up to $200,000 per election by consolidating the local vote with state or national elections. That figure may be high, depending on other local ballot measures that can't wait for the next general election. But even at half that it would be a big contribution to a cash-stretched community: $1 million over 10 years fills a lot of potholes or saves many city services.

Supporters also cite statistics indicating that up to twice as many people vote in general elections.

But there's a cost, opponents such as current council member Greg Schmid contend. Keeping local votes in odd years, Schmid argues, is not only a century-old Palo Alto tradition but allows candidates, supporters, the media and voters to focus on local issues and candidates without the distractions of state or national campaigns. He believes the higher-turnout estimates are exaggerated.

While we agree that the current odd-year schedule focuses more attention on the local races, we believe the higher turnout and cost-savings of switching more than offsets this benefit. Other communities, such as Menlo Park and Mountain View, are on an even-year schedule, and Palo Alto should join them.

We recommend a YES vote on Measure S.

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