Group opts for 6-member council

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

 

Register/Richard Luken
Members of a citizens advisory committee meet Monday to vote on city governance options. The group favored seeing Iola develop a six-member city council, although some confusion in the vetting process may prompt another vote. The committee members are, seated clockwise from lower left, Paul Beech, Stephen Centlivre, Barbara Chalker, Nancy Ford, Bob Johnson, Jim Kilby, Emerson Lynn Jr., Mike McKinnis, John McRae, Ray Shannon, Skip Becker, Jim Talkington, Larry Utley and Paul Zirjacks.

A citizens advisory committee has recommended that Iola convert its existing city commission to a six-member city council.
The recommendation was approved Monday at what may or may not have been the final meeting of the advisory committee assigned to look at various charter ordinances dealing with city governance.
Iola voters last April overwhelmingly approved a vote to disband the existing city commission form of government.
Since last fall, the advisory committee has met on a weekly basis to look at the size and scope of the new governing body, the mayor’s role and other elements of city goverment, such as the city administrator’s powers and when city meetings should take place.

WHILE THE advisory group came to a consensus on many topics, the recommendation on the new body’s size and how it would be elected was anything but unanimous.
In their initial round of voting, committee members were unable to find a majority among three proposals: using a four-member city commission and a mayor, which received six votes, or going with a six- or eight-member city council, each of which received four votes.
It wasn’t until committee members agreed to use a weighted voting system, in which they picked a first and second choice, that the six-member council — described by Stephen Centlivre as a “happy medium” compromise — was chosen.
Under the weighted system used, the first choice of each committee member counted as two votes and the second choice a single vote.
All 14 committee members listed the six-member council as either their first or second choice, but only five — members Barbara Chalker, Nancy Ford, Mike McKinnis, Ray Shannon and Skip Becker — made it their first choice. And while six other committee members — Jim Talkington, Paul Zirjacks, Paul Beech, Bob Johnson, Emerson Lynn Jr. and John McRae — preferred seeing a four-member city commission, only two others listed it as their second choice.
Members Larry Utley, Jim Kilby and Centlivre preferred an eight-member city council. All agreed that a six-member council was their second choice.
Shannon said he would present the committee’s recommendation to city commissioners Jan. 26.
Lynn urged Shannon to reflect that, while the six-member council proposal received a plurality using the weighted system, a plurality had preferred a four member commission and a mayor in the first vote. He also said he thought it important that the city commission be made aware of the presentations made by members of the committee supporting each of the three configurations.

AT THE conclusion of the meeting, members indicated that their work was finished.
But because of what Talkington described as confusion among the committee members about the vetting process, he is recommending the group meet again next Monday for another round of voting.
In particular, Talkington noted that the first vote was rejected because none of three options garnered a majority of the 14 votes. However, the weighted vote also did not garner a majority result. Using the weighted formula, the six-member option received 19 of a possible 42 tallies. The four-member commission option received 14 tallies and the eight-member council received nine tallies.
Talkington told the Register this morning that none of the committee members realized the discrepancy until after the meeting.

DESPITE THE varying opinions on the recommended size of Iola’s new governing body, members reached a consensus on several items, including expanding the powers of the city administrator and having the council meet in the evenings.
They also agreed that the mayor’s executive powers should not expand. That is, the mayor still will not be able to veto council decisions or to make city appointments without council approval.
The six-member council proposal would consist of one member from each of Iola’s four voting wards, plus two other members elected at-large. The mayor also would be elected at-large.
Each council member and the mayor would serve four-year terms, and elections would be staggered. Service would be unpaid, with all council members compensated only for pre-approved official expenses.

THE MATTER now goes to city commissioners, who will decide whether to pass a charter ordinance spelling out how the city will be governed or taking no action. If the commission takes no action it will be dissolved in April, 2011, and an an eight-member council will be elected to take its place, two from each ward, with a mayor elected at-large who could vote only to break ties.
The eight-member council, plus a mayor, was one of the options considered by the advisory committee.