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Placing items on ballot comes at a cost

ENCINITAS — As City Council recently grappled with whether to allow voters to decide the selection process for mayor, the cost of placing the question on the ballot was an issue for some members.According to Donna Fobar, a clerk at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, the total cost of placing items on the ballot is a weighted average based on the number of items, the number of registered voters of a particular municipality and the number of participating entities.

The estimates given for the November 2012 election are based on the 2008 presidential election. The city of Encinitas has indicated it will place three council seats as well as a measure on the ballot. The measure costs between $17,000 and $23,000, while the council seats cost $14,000 to $20,000 each.

The price includes six pages for candidate statements in total and three explanatory pages for the measure. The estimate is slightly higher for this election cycle because of a new legislative requirement that the ballots also include Chinese translation. The other languages available include Vietnamese, Pilipino, Spanish and English.

The cost estimates are as of Dec. 31, 2011. The actual report for billing purposes will be generated after the final number of registered voters and total number of participating entities is calculated, according to Fobar.

There are 37,620 registered voters in the city of Encinitas. Because the November election draws more ballot initiatives and more participating entities than primary or special elections, Fobar said the estimates given are a good gauge of what it will cost the city. “We’re usually very accurate but there are always possible variations so that’s why we give a range (of cost),” Fobar said.

The costs of administering a local election are just part of democracy according to several local citizens. “The cost to the city to put something on the ballot is small potatoes,” said 87-year-old Dave Williams, a frequent Election Day volunteer. “We really should let the people decide what happens in this city and the whole country for that matter,” he said. “You see that our representatives don’t always make very good decisions.”

While Williams didn’t elaborate on which decisions he was referring to, his neighbor and fellow volunteer, Ruth Turner, was less hesitant. “It doesn’t matter what the question is, it should go to the people (to decide),” she said.

“I personally would like to vote for the mayor in this city but the City Council decided we shouldn’t have a say so now I’m stuck with whoever they decide to pick for a year.” The council recently changed the term of mayor to two years from one.

“I’m a taxpayer and it doesn’t bother me one bit to pay my share for an election,” Turner said. “I’m sure the county registrar’s office isn’t making a killing on charging to put something on the ballot.”

The city clerk’s office said it will have exact numbers for the cost of the November election after the ballots are printed.

1 comment

Concerned Resident March 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Yes, if the Mayor’s term in Encinitas is to be for two years, we definitely want to be able to vote for our mayor, SPECIFICALLY! We just spent about $1.5 million for consultants to provide a draft document of the General Plan Update, which was essentially scrapped. We absolutely CAN AFFORD to place the question on the ballot of whether or not we will elect our mayor, and if so, should the term be for two years or for four years. This was the original motion made by Council Member Jim Bond, seconded by Mark Muir at the 2/15/12 Council Meeting. The contrivance of a two year term for the person getting the most votes during his or her election cycle was set up, orchestrated ahead of time, by Mayor Stocks (who never got the most votes during any election cycle) and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar, elected for the first time in November of 2010. Before that we never saw her at Council Meetings or at city commission meetings. Perhaps because she was an unknown on Council, she was able to raise money and distribute her face and name to the public through PACS and other campaign materials funded by developers and professional associations. People were terribly disillusioned by then Mayor Dan Dalager’s illegal conflicts of interest, for which he was later convicted, after a plea bargain. Stocks and Bond fully supported Dalager during his campaign, resorting to last minute “robo calls.” Nevertheless, we were able to oust discredited Dalager by voting him out of office.

Now we need to vote Stocks out of office. Kristin Gaspar needs to learn to think for herself, and to think on her feet, not always reading from a script that she has coordinated with Jerome Stocks. The way that the two year term rotational process was voted upon, without being on the agenda, without Council discussion after Stocks made his second substitute motion, and without any opportunity for public discussion on the specifics of that alternative, was also illegal, according to the Brown Act.

Council should either codify a one year term rotation which gives every Council Member an opportunity to serve, a system whereby the public vote could still be taken into consideration, OR, we should have an elected mayor for a two year term. Two years is sufficient time, in a strong City Manager form of government for the mayor to “get up to speed,” working with Council and staff. The voters could then reevaluate the mayor’s performance at the next General Election, deciding if she or he should be reelected or be replaced. A two year term would insure that the Mayor would be more responsive to the wishes of the general public. Council members, when their four year terms expire, would be required to choose between running for Council again, or running for mayor. In this process, it’s not equitable to “try to kill two birds with one stone.” Someone voting for an untried, unknown candidate, such as Kristin Gaspar WERE NOT INDICATING THEY WOULD WANT HER TO BE MAYOR FOR THE SECOND TWO YEARS OF HER FOUR YEAR TERM. No other city in the county, in the state, or probably in the country has been shown to select its mayor in this manner. It’s simply a contrivance to keep Teresa Barth from being able to have an opportunity to serve, at least one year, as mayor, when she was elected in 2006 and reelected in 2010 by a substantial number of voters, who now feel disenfranchised and disrespected.

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