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Smart Voter
Santa Clara County, CA November 2, 2010 Election
Measure S
Election Date Change
City of Palo Alto

election date change - Majority Approval Required

Pass: 19,509 / 76.27% Yes votes ...... 6,071 / 23.73% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Results as of Nov 23 2:45pm, 100.0% of Precincts Reporting (53/53)
Information shown below: Impartial Analysis | Arguments | Full Text

To consolidate with county and State elections and help reduce the City's election costs, shall Article 111, Section 3 of the Palo Alto City Charter be amended to change the City's general municipal elections to each even-numbered year, with the next election scheduled for 2012, and to extend the terms of all current council members by one year in order to complete the transition to even-numbered year elections?

Impartial Analysis from City Attorney
Article III of the Palo Alto City Charter currently provides that City Council Members are elected to four year terms of office at general municipal elections held in November of each odd-numbered year.

This measure would amend Article Ill, section 3 of the Charter to (1) change the general municipal election date for the election of City Council Members from odd to even numbered years beginning in November 2010, and (2) extend the terms of office of all current Council Members by one year, for a total term of five years, to facilitate the election year change.

The stated purpose of changing to even-numbered election years is to reduce the City's election costs by consolidating the City's elections with countywide and statewide elections, which are held in even-numbered years. According to the Registrar of Voters Impact Analysis, elections costs vary depending on the number of jurisdictions participating and sharing in an election. Because more jurisdictions participate in even-numbered year elections, election costs for those elections are lower than in odd-numbered years.

The Registrar estimated that the City's share of a November 2011 election would cost $136,000 to $269,000, while a 2012 election would cost approximately $111,000. The precise amount of savings is difficult to predict, but the City would likely recognize cost savings of approximately $25,000 to $175,000 per general election. According to the City Clerk, the cost of placing this proposal on the ballot is approximately $100,000. Based on the approximate savings anticipated for even-year elections, the City would recoup the cost of this election and realize actual election cost savings after one to four general election cycles.

A change to even-numbered years for City elections would result in increased election costs for other entities remaining on the odd-year election cycle. For example, the Registrar estimated that Foothill De Anza College and the Palo Alto Unified School Districts would see an election cost increase of approximately $50,000 each if the City changes to even-year elections.

The purpose of the provision to extend the terms of office of current City Council Members by one year, for a total term of five years instead of four, is to implement the change to even-numbered election years. Thus, the four current Council Members whose terms would have expired after the 2011 election will serve through 2012 until their successors are elected in November 2012 and qualified. The five current Council Members whose terms would have expired after the 2013 election will serve until their successors are elected November 2014 and qualified. Council Members elected in the 2012 and subsequent elections will serve four-year terms consistent with existing Charter provisions.

The change to even-year elections would delay by one year placing revenue-raising measures on the ballot since such measures must coincide with regular general elections.

This Charter Amendment will become effective if a majority of those voting on the measure vote for the amendment.

/s/ Gary M. Baum
City Attorney

  Official Information

N. B.This is not an official version of the measure. For the official wording contact the Registrar of Voters or the district sponsoring the measure.
Proponents and Opponents

Midpensula Community Media Center statements
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Arguments For Measure S Arguments Against Measure S
A yes on Measure S will change Palo Alto's City Council elections from odd numbered years to even numbered years. This simple change could double voter participation and save the City hundreds of thousands of dollars.

More people vote in general elections, which only take place in even years, than in municipal stand-alone elections taking place in odd years.

For example, in 2008, Palo Alto's last even year election, 31,566 Palo Altans voted on Measure N. However, in 2009, our last odd year election, only 14,308 Palo Altans voted on Measure A.

Consolidating the odd year city council elections with even year statewide elections may double voter participation.

2010 was a tough budget year. Cuts resulted in job losses. Here's one answer. Measure S will reduce the City's cost to hold an election, saving nearly $1 million dollars over the next 10 years. Here's how it works.

The City of Palo Alto shares the expense of an election with all other jurisdictions having elections at the same time. Expenses are based on a share of cost, thus when expenses are spread more broadly they are reduced. In odd year elections the city must bear more of the cost.

The cost to Palo Alto for the 2009 council election was $295,000. Our next council election anticipates a $93,000 cost if it's moved to 2012.

If Palo Alto shifted to even years, it could save about $200,000 every two years. Few neighboring cities still have odd year elections.

To implement this change, the current Council Members would have their terms extended by one year, one time only. No other way exists to change from odd to even year elections and reap worthwhile savings.

Higher voter turnout. Lower election costs. Greater voter awareness. Three great reasons. Vote YES on 'S'.

/s/ Liz Kniss
Santa Clara County Supervisor, D5
/s/ H. Greg Scharff
City Council Member, Palo Alto
/s/ Karen Holman
City Council Member, Palo Alto
/s/ Stephen W. Player
/s/ Judith G. Kleinberg
Former Mayor

Rebuttal to Arguments For
Measure S assumes a maximum cost savings from moving our City Council elections from odd years to even years. In fact, any savings from moving City council elections would become an increased cost to any other election in the odd years. Both our K-12 and community college trustee elections take place in the odd years and there have been special elections (either citizen-sponsored referendum, initiatives, Charter amendments, or revenue raising proposals) in 8 of the past 9 fall elections. We should schedule council elections when they make sense rather than for a false savings.

More people vote in even-year elections but the number voting for city council won't double. The registrar's data reflects the number of ballots counted, not the percent voting for local candidates. It is far more important to increase the number of informed participants in local elections and to give prominence to local issues.

Even-year elections only save money if voters are kept from voting on important issues for two years. Even if all odd year elections were removed, the claimed maximum savings to the City budget would be less than one half of one percent of the total. Critically, this would take away the unique opportunity to have voters give their full attention to important local issues. Focused, well-contested local elections around both candidates and special ballot issues are necessary for a healthy community.

Vote NO on Measure S.

/s/ Larry Klein
City Council Member And Former Mayor
/s/ Gary Fazzino
Former Mayor + City Councilmember
/s/ Bern Beecham
Former Mayor and Council Member
/s/ Lanie Wheeler
Former Mayor
/s/ Diane M. Reklis
Former PAUSD Trustee

Since 1909 Palo Alto citizens have focused on state and national issues in the even numbered years and local issues in the odd numbered years, giving thoughtful attention and enormous energy to both partisan and non-partisan elections. Community members are often passionately involved in presidential, gubernatorial, congressional, state legislative, and state ballot propositions. Yet, our citizens also avidly debate our ever-changing mix of local issues and then elect Council Members we believe will serve our needs. Our limited electoral time and money stretch further because our city has separated these very different elections.

Palo Altans participate actively in local elections. Turnout rates are usually substantially higher than in other communities with odd-year elections. Mailed ballots now account for almost 80% of the total votes; ease of voting assures high vote counts and lower costs for voting. Additional cost savings will occur when the county allows citizens to choose to receive ballot statements on-line rather than printing and mailing them. Further, keeping in synch with the local school district elections provides an intense focus on our community. Our local elections must continue to reflect our ever-changing community.

Shifting to even years would change the nature of local elections:

  • It is much more expensive to reach the public in a highly competitive and partisan environment.
  • There would not be space and time to articulate the nuances of local issues and the critical choices that make a difference.
  • Local elections benefit from the views of political newcomers. It would be harder for those without well-known names to emerge on a more crowded and more partisan ballot.

Since all these factors favor those already in the public eye, moving to even-numbered years could well be entitled the Incumbency Protection Act.

Vote NO on Measure S.

/s/ Gary Fazzino
Former Palo Alto Mayor
/s/ Greg Schmid
City Councilmember
/s/ Diane M. Reklis
former PAUSD trustee

Rebuttal to Arguments Against

Increase voter taxpayer dollars...and preserve city services!

Why change elections to even years? The extra "cost" for odd year elections comes from taxpayer dollars, paid by you and me. The Registrar Of Voters estimates the total cost of the 2011 odd year election in these three jurisdictions-- the City of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto School District, and Foothill-DeAnza, --will be close to $700,000. If this amount were even cut by half, we could save hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is "on-going", not just one-time, dollars.

What's at stake? A chance to save those extra dollars that it takes to have odd year elections, and use them to improve community services, such as neighborhood parks, library hours, pot-holed streets and programs for kids and families. Or perhaps, for schools--to keep the just hired new schoolteachers, reinstate courses cut from curriculum and keep more community college professors.

What will it take to get there? Each jurisdiction can change to even year elections, just as most cities surrounding Palo Alto have done. We save because we share the cost with others running in the same election. The cities that have changed to save money, have significantly increased voter turnout as well.

If we value increasing "civic engagement" in our city's democratic process, and encouraging greater participation, let's look at the positive changes that will occur with voting in even years.

Vote Yes on S!! Make your taxpayer dollars go for services, and savings.

/s/ Robert B. Harrington
Resident/Community Volunteer
/s/ A. Yiaway Yeh
City Council Member, Palo Alto
/s/ Walter V. Hays
/s/ A Glanckoph
Community Activist

Full Text of Measure S
A regular election shall be held in the city of Palo Alto on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each even-numbered year, commencing with the year 2012, and the same shall be known as the general municipal election. All other municipal elections that may be called under the authority of this charter, or by the general laws, shall be known as special elections.

Notwithstanding four-year city council member term limit set forth in Article III, section 2 of this charter, any city council members whose term of office would have expired prior to 2012 shall continue in their offices until December 31, 2012 or until their successors are elected and qualified.

Notwithstanding four-year city council member term limit set forth in Article III, section 2 of this charter, any city council members whose term of office would have expired prior to 2014 shall continue in their offices until December 31, 2014, or their successors are elected and qualified.

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Created: January 6, 2011 14:59 PST
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