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Council endorses staggered election cycle

A charter change that would modify the election cycle for two at-large seats on the City Council will go before the voters in November.
The council Monday night approved the language for a change that is needed to stagger the election years for two seats that would allow voters to choose an at-large councilor every year. To meet that goal, one at-large seat will remain with a three-year term and another will become a four-year term for one cycle.
While the charter change was up for discussion, some members of the council felt that more time was needed to look at the proposal.
The charter change alters the term lengths for the at-large seats in order to stagger the elections so that at least one occurs each year. The idea behind the change is that Portland residents should have an opportunity each year to vote for at least one council position.
In 2012, Portland voters would still vote for council seats for district one and two and an at-large seat.
"I think that this is a good proposal," said Councilor David Marshall, who sits on the council's Legislative Committee that endorsed the charter change, and that there's value in people being able to vote for a councilor each election.
The charter change — as its proposed — would first impact the 2013 election.

Aside from the District Three seat, voters would elect an at-large seat for a four-year term and another at-large seat for a three-year term.
 Once the change takes effect each subsequent year — with the exception of 2014 — will have an at-large seat up for election.
Without the change, some election years like 2014 and 2017 would only have district seats up for election and only voters within those wards can vote for the candidates during those years.
In order to start the process of staggering the election, the change would make one of the at large seats elected for a four-year term. All the council seats with the exception for the mayor are elected for three-year terms.
Councilor Kevin Donoghue said he supports the idea behind the change but thinks there needs to be a competitive process for the election. He said an option might be having the same goal of staggering the cycles accomplished by having a seat run for a one-year term then a three-year term.
"The four-year term, to me, is not unreasonable," said Councilor Ed Suslovic. He said it would be a daunting task for someone to mount a campaign for a one-year term and then need to do it all over again a year later.
When it came to the final vote, only one councilor went against the charter change.
Councilor Nicholas Mavadones said he's not opposed to the idea of staggering the elections but does take issue with giving one seat a longer term.
"I think it's more appropriate to keep the council terms to three years," he said.

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