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NOV. 16 - DEC. 14, 2015

NIRENBERG continues from pg. 17 Charter Commission to view those types of recommendations,” Taylor said. “However, I would say without having done a lot of study on how it might impact us, that there’s a reason why we have elections in May, which is to preserve the nonpartisan nature of our city government, which I think is an advantage.” “We could look at having partisan city government,” she added, “but I think we’re at an advantage here at the local level. Being nonpartisan helps us to get things done.” Nirenberg counters there are several routes to avoid partiality in local elections. “Yes, we can have a nonpartisan election on a statewide or national ballot. No parties would be listed and there would be no primary,” Nirenberg said in an email. “We could also avoid issues with a primary through various other strategies, such as instant runoff voting.” He finds arguments against November municipal elections flimsy. “I don’t put stock in the excuse of partisanship,” he said. “If a politician wants to avoid the influence of

partisanship, just stop communicating in a partisan way, period. So much of that communication is reactive, and that’s the fault of the person reacting.” Taylor hasn’t dismissed moving the voting day, though. “What I’d like to see is more people voting, regardless of when it occurs,” she said.

MOVING FORWARD

Because the City Charter allows for changes only every two years, one isn’t possible until 2017. This year, the public voted to amend the charter to permit council pay increases. Charter commission member David McGee believes the discussion will be addressed when the body reconvenes. Election dates were broached in the last session this year. “One concern was that moving the election would add a political element to city government,” he said. “That’s something that San Antonio has guarded against, but it wasn’t a priority and we did not consider it or draft a recommendation.” However, saving money may be a beneficial reason for electiondate alterations, he added. “One argument in favor of it might be the expense of elections – that

could be reduced by combining elections,” McGee said. A vote to change the charter could take another year, or longer, after the commission receives the proposal. If approved, the measure then goes before the council, which decides whether it should proceed, and if so, schedules a public vote to amend the charter. Nirenberg said there’s still much to discuss, including how unexpired council terms would be managed if the election timing is changed. There are other considerations, too. “School board elections could be affected,” Nirenberg said. “Some of them

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are in May of odd-number years. We want to make sure we have good participation in every level of government, but my concern and my jurisdiction is council.” Nirenberg believes greater voter participation increases the accountability of elected officials. He expects the topic to be debated at length, possibly with vehement opposition, but said the battle is worthwhile. “In the United States of America, where you have more than 50 percent of the people that are eligible to cast a vote in the presidential election doing so, and 10 percent of those eligible to cast a vote in a local election doing so, it’s not exactly the America that our forefathers envisioned.”

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