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Washington City Council considers term extension

Should members of Washington City Council serve for four years instead of two?

That’s a question City Council has been debating and researching recently. No official action has been taken yet, but an amendment to the city’s charter would be required in order to change to four years.

A couple of councilmembers explained their positions on the potential change during Monday’s City Council meeting. Councilwoman Betsy Kane is against it.

“I have not heard any input from members of the public encouraging that,” Kane said. “… If anybody wants any one person to serve four years, the voters can certainly go to the polls and elect that person twice.”

Kane said  a two-year term makes the process of completing tasks “nice and urgent.”

“I don’t feel like the four-year term would be likely to make us more responsive or accountable,” Kane said. “I think a two-year term is good, and it’s very inexpensive to run that election each two years.”

Councilman William Pitt is in favor of the four-year term.

“It will increase productivity and continuity with this council,” Pitt said. “The important thing to realize is by the time you get nominated or elected, in a two-year term you spend your first year learning. If you don’t spend your first year learning, you don’t know enough.

“The important part is you must have continuity on this council. And we’ve started many projects in the last 10 years that we’ve stopped, and we’ve restarted the same projects again.”

Per state law, a city can amend certain parts of its charter without action from the General Assembly. Length of term is one of those parts.

City Attorney Franz Holscher said in order to amend the charter, City Council would need to propose an ordinance, and then adopt a resolution of intent to consider an ordinance amending the charter. A public hearing would be arranged at that time. Following that public hearing, Council would vote on the ordinance amending the charter.

The ordinance would need to be in place at least 90 days before the next election in order to become effective during that cycle.