Rolling the dice for Vancouver mayor

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt

In November, Vancouver voters will consider a ballot measure that would require mid-term City Council members who want to run for mayor to forfeit their council seats at the end of the year, even if they don’t win. Councilors who wanted to run for mayor – or another council seat – would be required to give notice of intent 30 days prior to the filing deadline. They’d essentially be tendering their resignation.

If voters approve this change to the 1952 city charter, it would force Vancouver City Councilors to decide whether reaching for the mayorship is worth losing their grip on their council seats if they lost the election.

Although the mayor commands a higher paycheck than the rest of the council ($2,300 a month versus $1,800 a month), the position doesn’t carry any additional voting weight or other powers. In Vancouver, the city manager runs City Hall and manages the staff, while the council sets policy. The mayor is a figurehead who runs council meetings, sets the meeting agendas with the city manager, is the council’s spokesperson and represents the city at public events.

If this ballot measure had been adopted previously, freshman Councilor Bill Turlay would have forfeited his seat halfway through his four-year term when he unsuccessfully ran for mayor against incumbent Tim Leavitt in 2013. His seat would have been opened to other candidates in November’s election.

“I think the proposal balances things out for elected officials in a fair way on the council,” Leavitt said Tuesday.

The reason is that council members who run for mayor in the middle of their terms get a “free ride,” unlike council members at the end of their terms, who must choose whether to run for re-election or run for mayor.

“I think it’s an issue of equity and fairness for every member of the city council in requiring you choose one or the other,” Leavitt said. “Everybody has a fair and equal shot.”

If the Clark County Councilors had such a measure in place, it would certainly raise the stakes in November’s three-way race for councilor chair. Councilors David Madore, Tom Mielke and Jeanne Stewart all want the job. But how badly? Would they be willing to risk losing their seats for a shot at it?

It would be interesting to see who’s got the stomach for gambling – and voters hold the dice.

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