This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.
The City of Lenoir is no closer to a definitive vote on proposed changes to city elections, after the matter was tabled at the City Council’s Feb. 19 meeting. But some council members are questioning whether the vote should take place this year at all.
The city is considering a switch from a primary system to a plurality method for its municipal elections. Primary elections (which cost about $10,000) would be eliminated and elections for mayor and city council would be wrapped up in one round of votes.
After Tuesday’s public hearing (which drew no participation), council voted to table the matter until March 5. The absence of Councilman Merlin Perry, who had said he favored a switch to the plurality system, prompted the 5-1 decision to postpone action.
But Councilman Todd Perdue expressed doubts about letting the vote take place at all – at least in a year when four of the council’s members are up for reelection.
“If it’s going to be done at all, I think it’s better for it to be tabled until 2014,” Perdue said. “It should be done in an off year.”
Perdue said the timing of the vote could make it appear that the council acted out of self-interest.
Councilman Ben Willis agreed the timing of the vote was less than ideal.
“I wish this wasn’t an election year,” Willis said. “Just because you don’t want it to be politicized as much as it could be. That’s my concern as well.”
The resolution’s most vocal supporter, at least on Tuesday, was Mayor Pro-Tem T.J. Rohr.
Rohr ran for council in 2003. Seven candidates ran for three open slots, triggering a primary election.
“We had to have a primary to eliminate one person,” Rohr said. “That cost somewhere, I think the estimates are in the range of $7,000 to $8,000. And it just, again, eliminated one person.”
City Council will revisit the proposed changes to the city charter at its March 5 meeting. The vote to table action on the resolution passed 5-1.