Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bellevue term debate goes before state Legislature

Current council members would not be ‘grandfathered in’

Express Staff Writer

State legislators could soon decide whether to allow Bellevue City Council members to serve four years, or to keep the two-year terms currently allowed under the city's charter.

All other Idaho cities have four-year terms.

The City Council voted unanimously last month to request the term extension, which must be authorized by legislators because Bellevue, alone among Idaho cities, is still governed by a territorial charter, rather than by Idaho municipal law.

The charter's colorful language, dating from 1882, gives the Bellevue marshal authority to police "hawkers," "peddlers" and "Houses of Ill Fame," as well as traveling theater troupes.

But the most administratively significant difference between Bellevue and other Idaho cities is Bellevue's two-year terms for council members and the mayor. Proponents of the change say four-year terms will mean less work for city staff in conducting elections and an easier learning curve for elected officials.

However, at a council meeting last week, two residents said they preferred keeping the city's two-year term limits, as well as protecting other historic vestiges of the city's charter government.

"Two-year term limits are working," Florence Blanchard said. "I like that we have the opportunity to throw the bums out if we want to."

State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Idaho, helped to write Bill 505, which contains the requested term limit amendment to Bellevue's charter.

Jaquet said in an interview that after a town hall meeting in Bellevue in January, she and the Bellevue City Clerk Dee Barton drafted a bill that would not grandfather in sitting council members who had been elected for two-year terms.

Those currently in the middle of two-year terms are Mayor Chris Koch and council members Larry Plott, Barb Patterson and Sara Burns. They would have to run again in November to keep their seats. If they win they will serve three-year terms.

Those elected last fall—Dave Hattula, Amber Avila and Janet Duffy—could run in 2013 for the city's first four-year terms.

After the 2015 election, all council members and the mayor would serve four-year terms.

Jaquet said Bill 505 could be set for a hearing next week by the House Local Government Committee. If passed, it would go to the floor of the House and then to a Senate committee and the Senate floor, then have to be signed by Gov. Butch Otter.

In other Bellevue news:

( City staff is exploring a new option to use a possible $25,000 federal grant to build two flashing crosswalks across state Highway 75. The council had previously suspended the application due to engineering costs and the uncertainty of obtaining it.

( Councilwoman Barb Patterson donated two street lamps to illuminate the entrance to City Hall.

Tony Evans:

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