Anoka chooses savings on election frequency | Government

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Is it worth spending $ 30,000 on a special election to fill a vacant position on Anoka City Council?

Last week, a majority of council said no and rejected a proposed amendment to the city’s charter, which acts as a constitution for the city. The amendment would have required the city to hold a special election if a council member leaves office with more than a year remaining in office.

The failure of the amendment means that if there is a vacancy, the seat will go on the ballot in the next regular election, and the board will appoint someone to fill the seat in the meantime, as it has done this in the past. Municipal elections are held every two years in Anoka.

Council member Erik Skogquist, the sole supporter of the amendment, said he did not believe the Council should appoint a member to occupy a seat for long periods of time and that the system had been misused in the pass. He cited the appointment of board member Brian Wesp in 2016 as the most “glaring” example.

In 2016, then-board member Steve Schmidt was re-elected to the board but resigned a few weeks later for health reasons. He recommended Wesp for the seat, and the board made the two-year appointment.

“This, to me, is more blatant than spending $ 30,000, when board members are basically choosing who their colleagues will be and have used the system in a way that I don’t think should be used. “said Skogquist.

Wesp pointed out that he faced voters in 2018 and kept his seat.

Wesp didn’t think the proposed change made sense and cited the example of a neighboring community that has had many special elections in recent years, sometimes with only a few hundred voters. He was apparently referring to Anoka’s northern neighbor, Ramsey, who has held five special elections and a special primary since the start of 2018. Only one of those special elections coincided with the regular municipal elections.

Wesp said the current system worked for Anoka.

“In some cases the way the board picked the replacement has been a bit sour, but that’s what we’re here to do,” Wesp said.

Council member Elizabeth Barnett called it unreasonable to spend $ 30,000 on a special election rather than wait for the next regular municipal election.

“I don’t think this is how our taxpayers would want their funds and their money to be spent,” she said.

Like Wesp, Barnett was first appointed to her current seat. She was appointed in 2018 to fill the vacant position when board member Carl Anderson moved to Champlin. She retained her seat in a regular election later that year.

Skogquist was not appointed to the board in 2016 and 2018 when Wesp and Barnett were appointed, but he won a seat in the November 2018 election.

Mayor Phil Rice said he was comfortable with the current schedule as voters have the option of electing council representatives every two years.

Board member Jeff Weaver said the process has worked well in the past.

Although the board rejected the charter amendment proposed on December 6, it asked the Charter Commission to develop another proposal that would clarify the ambiguous language of the charter regarding the appointment process. The commission recommended clarifying the language in 2019, but Skogquist said at the time that he didn’t like the board being able to appoint a member for two years without a community vote, and he wanted to explore other options. .

Changes to the city charter must be made unanimously by the city council or by referendum.

As a rule, the Charter Commission meets once a year, but can meet more frequently if necessary.

Charter to demand a salary review

On December 6, city council unanimously approved a Charter Commission recommendation to amend the charter to require city council to review council salaries in June of every odd-numbered year. The board has approved the first reading of the change and will finalize the change at a future meeting.

The change only requires review and does not require the board to make adjustments to their salaries.

This year, board members received their first raise since 2006, following a vote in 2019 approving the measure. Wesp expressed his dissent in the 2019 vote. The increases approved by the council do not take effect until after the next election.

As of this year, the mayor receives a salary of $ 9,700 and council members earn $ 8,000 per year. Compared to the previous 15 years, this represents an increase of around 10% for the mayor and 12% for council members.

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