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Push made to give Phoenix Mayor Gordon 2-year extension to term

Mayor Phil Gordon (Photo: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Scott Wong, Arizona Republic] — A proposed ballot initiative in Phoenix would hand Mayor Phil Gordon and four City Council members an extra two years in office, extending their current terms to January 2014.  It’s a plan that backers say would save the city money but one that some City Hall observers believe is designed to buy time for the two-term mayor as he contemplates his next political move.  Term limits will force Gordon out of office in January 2012.

With little fanfare, the Phoenix Election Consolidation Committee, a political group led by Gordon supporters, filed initial paperwork this week to put the initiative on the city’s September ballot.  The proposal would eliminate staggered council terms by delaying the 2011 election for the mayor and odd-numbered council districts until 2013.  Supporters said the initiative would put all city races on the same election cycle, boost voter turnout and save the city $1 million every four years, a savings estimate the City Clerk’s Office confirmed.

“The very basic motivation is really the budget issues that the city of Phoenix is looking at,” said Tom Milton, committee chairman and a former council member who served with Gordon and worked on his first mayoral campaign.  “It’s a cost saving for the city at a time when the alternatives are looking for cuts in areas that would really hurt.”  Milton heads the committee with his sister, Pamala Doan.  Milton, who served on the council from 1998 to 2001, said that he worked on Gordon’s first mayoral campaign in 2003 while employed with Riester, a Phoenix marketing and public-relations firm.  Doan, the committee treasurer who filed the initiative application Tuesday, worked on Gordon’s re-election campaign in 2007 while also employed with Riester.

Gordon said he would have no comment about the initiative until he reviews it on Friday, and he declined to answer questions about the campaign supporters who filed the paperwork.  “The budget is my top priority,” Gordon told The Republic on Wednesday.  “My suggestion is that everyone in public and private focus on that.”

The proposal has drawn criticism from some community members who argue that staggered terms, passed by voters in 1991, ensure that the entire nine-member council is not replaced by political “neophytes” in a single election.  “We believe that staggered terms are appropriate,” said Paul Barnes, president of the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Phoenix, a community-preservation group.  “This is mostly a move by Mayor Gordon to extend his term, and there is no rationale and no good reason for it.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Plan would give Phoenix mayor two extra years — without another election

[Source: Sarah Fenske, Phoenix New Times] — City officials are weighing a plan to consolidate elections in the city of Phoenix — one that could give Mayor Phil Gordon and certain council members an extra two years in office without being forced to run for reelection, New Times has learned.  On January 9, a group called “Phoenix Election Consolidation Committee” quietly filed papers with the city clerk, establishing a political committee to support a new ballot issue.

Currently, council terms are staggered, with some members due up for reelection at the end of this year and some (including Gordon) due in 2011.  Sources tell New Times that the committee hopes to change the set-up so that everybody’s terms expire at once, thereby saving the city the expense of twice the number of elections. But here’s where we could get some opposition: Rather than have the 2011 folks run for an abbreviated two-year term, we’re told that the new plan would just push them back to 2013 — meaning those lucky council members and the mayor would get six-year terms.

If what we’re understanding is correct, council members Thelda Williams, Maria Baier, Claude Mattox, and Michael Nowakowski could all get a two-year bonus.  But the scenario would probably have the biggest impact on the mayor.  Technically, he’s due to be term-limited out of office after two four-year terms. Handing him an extra two years would surely cause some controversy.  (See: Bloomberg, Mike.)

City Clerk Mario Paniagua told us that, based on the scenario we describe, the change would require a charter amendment. That means we the voters, not the Council, would ultimately have the finally say on the plan.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]