COUNCIL APPROVES ORDINANCE, 5-2; STAROSCIAK, SOUZA VOTE NOBy STEVEN TAVARES
SAN LEANDROThe economic argument against Ranked Choice Voting, oddly, became the very same reason the city ordinance implementing the election system for next November was approved, 5-2. Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak and Councilwoman Diana Souza voted against the ordinance.
Although RCV was previously approved by the city council in January and allow the city to enter an agreement to share the initial costs of the system with Oakland and Berkeley, the ordinance actually delivering it became an internecine battle between segments of the council.
With Councilman Michael Gregory on vacation in Japan last month, the ordinance was deadlocked and failed, 3-3, with Starosciak and Councilman Bill Stephens continuing their opposition because of the city's current budget situation. Souza, who has never been enamored with RCV, switched her vote from her January yes vote to no, setting up a situation where opponents of RCV on economic grounds now faced a situation where a possible February 2011 runoff could have cost the city for more than the startup costs of RCV.
San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos quickly called for reconsideration of the vote for Monday night using powers entitled to the mayor in the city's charter. In the time between last month's failure to pass the ordinance, once seen as merely a procedural certainty, one council member had a change of heart.
"I was against RCV because of the financial impact," said Stephens when announcing he was voting in favor of the ordinance, but said the cost associated with suspending the city's participation would be too high.
Without passage, the city would have been on the hook for its part of RCV, whether they participated or not, according to Councilman Jim Prola. "Once it was passed, I believed we really had an obligation to go forward with it," said Prola. "As it turned out, the costs would have been significant." According to the city clerk, a stand-alone runoff election early next year would have been costs prohibitive; running close to $200,000.
San Leandrans will be asked to ranked their preferences for mayoral and council candidates instead of registering a single vote. The aim of RCV is to find a consensus winner by transferring the first-place votes of the last-place candidate proportionately among those remaining until one candidate gains a majority of the votes. The method eliminates the need for a separate run-off election in the event a candidate does not garner a majority, as is done in the primary system. Proponents of RCV also say it allows for greater voter participation and lowers the financial playing field for candidates since it eliminates the possibility of campaigning for two elections.
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