Input received, no clear consensus for task force

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The mayors task force looking at the way Alexandria holds local elections held a public hearing on Saturday and listened to 25 speakers. There was no overwhelming consensus on anything.

According to Anna Leider, a member of the task force, said, I kept a chart while people were speaking and had lines going everywhere. We had a lot of interesting input, but there was no general agreement on any one thing.

The closest thing to consensus, according to Leider, was that elections for City Council and School Board should remain in May. Even that did not have overwhelming support, she said. Some people believe that if we move our local elections to November, we will have a much higher turnout. While that is true, I wonder if those people would be informed about the local races. Also, the people who came to speak to us are active in civic associations and politically active, representing both major political parties. They are going to vote whether elections are in May or November.

Some speakers wanted to reduce Council and Board terms from three years to two, but very few wanted to increase them to four years. Also, almost no one supported staggered elections, meaning that some members of each body would be elected every year.

I thought there would be more support for staggered terms than there was, Leider said.

There was some support for electing City Council by districts, like the School Board. Generally, those who supported this said that the three School Board districts would be fine to use as a model for Council, but even those who liked that idea thought that there should still be some members elected at-large, Leider said.

The group will meet later this week and again on June 20 to discuss the public hearing and write their final report. That report will be delivered to Council at the June 26 legislative meeting and public hearings will be scheduled for the fall. If Council decides to change anything other than moving local elections from May to November, a charter change will be required. This must be part of the citys legislative package at the Virginia General Assemblys 2008 session to be in place by the 2009 city elections.

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