Recently I was brooding over two threats to the survival of mankind. One is our addiction to violence and war. The other is our storage of lethal, radioactive waste at aging nuclear power plants. But then I was freed from my apocalyptic mood by the City Council of my hometown, Paso Robles.
Council members voted unanimously last week to do something refreshingly inconsequential. They decided to ask us voters in November to give Paso Robles mayors a longer term of office. Its now two years. They want it to be four.
Councilman Fred Strong explained, Two years is too short a term for any office because youre spending 50 percent of your time on your campaign instead of representing your constituency.
But there is another possibility. They could ask us voters to approve going back to not having separate mayoral elections at all.
Before 2002, the voters just elected five council members to four-year terms. Then, every two years, the council members chose the mayor from among themselves.
After all, the mayor of a general-law city like Paso Robles has no more legal power than any other council member. As the League of Women Voters explained, the mayor is merely the councils presiding officer and the citys ceremonial head.
What happened in 2002 was the council asked the voters whether theyd like to elect the citys mayor every two years. The voters, who instinctively distrust governmental leaders, couldnt resist that crumb of power. They approved the proposal.
But I seriously doubt you can find many Roblans today who think our city runs any better than it did in 2002.
Lets remember Barney Schwartz. He was Paso Robles mayor for 20 years 1962 to 1982. The people elected him to the council every four years. His fellow council members picked him as mayor every two years. He was a man of unique drive, vision and leadership skills.
He deserves much of the credit and blame for the Paso Robles you see today. During his tenure, the city expanded from 3.5 square miles to 11.4. It got five more parks and 1,000 new industrial jobs. The population grew to 9,700 from 6,800, but within eight years after he retired, it had doubled to nearly 20,000.
Tinkering with the way we choose mayors wont improve our crime rate, traffic safety or deteriorating streets. The kind of people who can accomplish such things can also handle two-year terms, directly elected or not.
And by the way, how much will this election cost? Dont we have more pressing needs for our money these days?
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.