Councilors thumb noses at voters, City Charter
Grand Junction City Councilor Jim Doody’s reaction to his colleagues Tuesday night — walking out in the midst of a tense meeting — may have been a bit theatrical, but it’s easy to understand his frustration.
Three of his fellow City Council members decided not only to reject a public election for the two vacant seats on the council, but to “temporarily” reinterpret the City Charter to ensure the votes of Doody and Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein were essentially nullified.
We believe the citizens of Grand Junction should have an opportunity to vote on the two vacant seats on the council — one that was held by the late Harry Butler and one vacated just this week by Rick Brainard.
That’s especially true since Butler wasn’t one of the so-called “chambermades,” candidates recruited and supported for the City Council by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.
The three members in the majority on the council Tuesday evening — Marty Chazen, Phyllis Norris and Mayor Sam Susuras — all enjoy the support of the chamber, and they would like nothing better than to appoint new council members who share their political and ideological views to the currently vacant seats.
However, while the City Charter allows the sitting council members to appoint people to fill council vacancies, this is a unique situation.
Two council seats have become vacant within a few months after their occupants were elected — one as a result of death and one due to resignation under political pressure. Two of the other City Council members, Norris and Chazen, are also newcomers.
It makes far more sense to allow voters to decide who should fill those two vacant positions — and the people elected to fill those spots will have far more credibility than they will if a bloc of council members representing one particular organization manipulates the established council rules in order to choose the new members.
And manipulate they did Tuesday.
The City Council normally has seven members, and the City Charter requires a majority of the members to support any action for it to pass. It has generally been assumed that means at least four members of the council must vote “Yea” on an item for the item to be approved.
But on Tuesday, the council decided that because there are currently only five council members, a three-member majority would be sufficient to appoint someone to fill the Butler vacancy.
And how did councilors reach this determination? Why, by three members agreeing that only three votes are required. Talk about a stacked deck.
The credibility of the current City Council, already low, took another significant hit this week.