Plenty of takers for Seitz’s empty council seat

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 6/1/21

Hey, you can't blame people for wanting to grab the brass ring at no cost and gain a 2 1/2 year term on City Council. Plus it pays over $1,000 per month. Councilmember Jon Voelz did it when Emma …

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Plenty of takers for Seitz’s empty council seat

Posted

Hey, you can't blame people for wanting to grab the brass ring at no cost and gain a 2 1/2 year term on City Council. Plus it pays over $1,000 per month.

Councilmember Jon Voelz did it when Emma Pinter left city council to trade up so to speak to be an Adams County Commissioner. He inherited an unexpired term of 33 months with no campaign expense or the laborious task of going door-to-door campaigning for votes.

With Anita Seitz now in the Mayor's seat, 14 people want her vacant city council seat. The current six member city council has 30 days starting from May 10 (when Seitz vacated her council seat) to process the candidates and come to agreement on who might fill this vacancy. If they cannot come to a compromise (which is exactly what is needed), the City Charter mandates a special election and the voters would decide.

However, if my math is correct, such a special election would fall within 90 days of the regular city election on November 2 and would be merged into the regular election. The July 20 recall election on Councillor Voelz, by the way, is outside the 90 day window and is not affected.

A full house of candidates with a short deadline

The following individuals have applied for the Seitz vacancy per the City Clerk's Office: Obi Ezeadi, Bruce Baker, Kristine Ireland, Michael John Tylka, Miguel Mendoza-Hall, Mark Clark, Jeffe D. Nofftz, Patrick Rock, Kathleen Dodaro, Don Fiddes, Patricia Moore, Larry Dean Valente, Wayne Anderson and Scott Ireland.

I know eight of the individuals to varying degrees. The group represents a wide range of backgrounds, ages, political activity/experience, views on the city's water rates, a former Broomfield City Council member and a member of the City's Inclusivity Board. The process the council is using to narrow the field will produce the list of those who are to be interviewed by City Council on June 1.

Assuming my math is correct, they have through June 9 to decide who to appoint and have the person sworn-in.

Is this too generous a policy?

While we are on the topic of the City Council appointing new council members to fill unexpired terms of office, I want to encourage Westminster voters to think about the existing practice used in Westminster.

Whoever is appointed by the City Council enjoys the balance of the ex-councilperson's unexpired term of office. Even if a regular city election comes and goes, the appointee enjoys the full remaining term. This is a very generous policy.

Other Colorado municipalities often have a policy that the appointed council member must stand election at the next regular city election. It just seems to me that the elected representatives of our city government should be “elected” to the highest extent versus appointed by the controlling majority of City Council. It would take a City Charter amendment to make that kind of change.

Westminster's City Charter needs updating

The point about requiring a City Charter amendment is a good segue way to another issue which has been on my mind: More and more, there is a need to modify, clarify, update, delete and change the Westminster City Charter.

Written in 1957 and adopted by the citizenry in 1958, it simply needs an full overhaul. Besides the amendment mentioned above, I have mentioned the need to change who selects candidates to fill two or more existing council vacancies (remember the orchestrated resignations of Councillors de Cambra, Bird and Pinter). Also, if this November's advisory ballot question on changing from an all at-large City Council to some or all geographical council representation format, voters would need to adopt a subsequent City Charter amendment to implement the new approach. Plus, there are many housekeeping updates and clarifications that are overdue. Again, these require Charter amendments which only the voters can approve. The City Council does not have the authority to amend the City Charter.

A choice of two options

There are two ways to tackle this inadequacy. First, a piecemeal approach could be implemented by the City Council placing say 3-7 amendments on the November ballot each year until the whole Charter is updated. This was the approach used when I was City Manager from 1978-2001.

Since then, there have been very few Charter amendments initiated by City Council seeking voter approval. The practice of “keeping the Charter in tune with the times,” as we would say, fell by the wayside.

The other option would be to convene a charter convention. Under the authority of Article XX, Section 6 of the Colorado State Constitution, home rule cities like Westminster may call a charter convention to review and propose updates, changes, deletions in the existing city charter. Voter approval is required to call the charter convention along with the citizen delegates who would do the work. Their final written product would also require voter approval.

This approach would be more comprehensive in a single process. Either option will accomplish the intended objective.

Show some leadership

The important point here is for the City Council to show some leadership and initiate one approach or the other. There are too many important issues which have evolved to turn a blind-eye to doing nothing. Let's remember, it has been 63 years since the Westminster City Charter was adopted by the people in 1958.

Voelz will definitely be on the recall ballot

After a series of fits and starts, City Councillor Jon Voelz will face recall on July 20 in a special election. Most recently, he had protested petition signatures pertaining to his recall from the last round of review. District Court Judge Kyle Seedorf had ordered City Clerk Michelle Parker to redo her review of all the signatures and petitions she had initially thrown out using his instructions. Her review still produced sufficient valid signatures to place him on the recall ballot.

His protest was then administered by the Special Hearing Officer who the city had previously hired and used. Her results were announced on May 25 with only six signatures rejected leaving 6,101 valid signatures. A minimum of 6,098 were needed to keep him on the recall ballot.

Thus, Councillor Voelz is on the ballot by a mere three signatures. To contrast that “close call”, Councillor Skulley “dodged the bullet” of joining Voelz by a mere single signature. Also, Seitz escaped the recall ballot by a mere 35 valid signatures that could have been cured if Atchison had stayed on as Mayor.

Every vote and every signature does count

I report these results to demonstrate the importance of your vote and your signature on every occasion! I know it is an old cliché, but it has validity as you can see.

So, be sure to vote on July 20 and November 2 regarding Westminster city government's future. As a friend of mine recently said, “What has happened to our beautiful city?”

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at bcjayhawk68@gmail.com.

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