Palo Alto officials could soon switch to even years for local elections -- a move that would save the city about $200,000 every two years and extend the terms of current City Council members by a year.
The council asked the City Attorney's office early Tuesday morning to draft an ordinance that would change the city's election year from odd to even years, a switch that was proposed last month by Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss. The switch would have to be approved by city voters.
Kniss, a former Palo Alto mayor, told the council at the June 21 meeting that most cities in the county already hold their elections on even years, which coincides with state and federal elections. Los Altos and Gilroy had recently switched from odd to even years, while Cupertino decided to stay on odd years.
A switch from odd to even years would require the council to change the City Charter. It would also stretch the terms of four council members -- Pat Burt, Sid Espinosa, Greg Schmid and Yiaway Yeh -- until 2012. Their terms are currently scheduled to expire in 2011.
The five council members who were elected (or, in Larry Klein's case, reelected) last November would see their terms expire in 2014 if the measure gets on the ballot and the voters approve it.
The council voted 8-1, with Schmid dissenting, to ask the city's legal staff to draft a charter amendment and ballot language that would allow current council members to serve five-year terms and that would not effect their ability to serve two terms.
Kniss acknowledged during her presentation last month that the political aspect of the switch could be the most difficult obstacle. But she said the switch would both save the city money and raise voter turnout.
"Voters are much more engaged, especially in a presidential year, and the buzz of running is always a bigger buzz," Kniss told the council.
Councilwoman Karen Holman and Greg Scharff made the proposal to request an ordinance changing the election year. The council will discuss the proposal on Aug. 2, the final meeting before its August recess.
The council agreed at the end of its meeting -- which spilled over from Monday night into early Tuesday morning -- that Kniss' proposal deserves a closer look.
"I think it's important to have a discussion on the matter, given that she raised it and it's an important issue," Scharff said.