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Guillaume Williams

February 15, 2015
Reinbeck Courier

Dear Editor,

Reinbeck citizens to lose right to vote for Park Board member due to the inaction of Reinbeck City Council

In July and again in October 2014, resignations were accepted by the Reinbeck City Council leaving two vacancies for elected Park Board positions.

In July 2014, revision of Iowa State Code provides 60 days for the City Council to fill the vacancies by appointment. Previously it was only 40 days. They could also call for a special election to fill the vacancies.

The Reinbeck City Council failed to act at all to fill the vacancies. The previous mentioned Iowa Code mandates that in the absents of action by the City Council, The City Clerk is to notify the County Commissioner of Elections of the vacancies and call for a special election. The Reinbeck City Clerk failed to carry out those duties as well.

After the violations of State Code were brought to the attention of the Grundy County Commissioner of Elections, the City Attorney and the City Administrator were notified by that office.

On Feb 4, 2015 at a public meeting of the Reinbeck City Council, the City Attorney advised the Reinbeck City Council of two options: First to notify the Grundy County Commissioner of Election to set a date for a special election. And Second, that the Council move to begin the process of amending the City Code to decrease the number of elected officials from five to three, eliminating the need for a special election. She cautioned them, that to do so solely to avoid a special election would create cause for a challenge. Claims were made that it was the City Councils intent to change the City Code anyway. It was pointed out, that when they accepted the October resignation, the published minutes of that meeting reflected the City Councils desire to fill the post in the spring.

After discussions with two current members of the Park Board, the City Administrator, and private citizens, the Reinbeck City Council concluded that five Park Board Members were beneficial. The City Council voiced concerns of past elections where sufficient number of candidates were not on the ballot and write in candidate were asked to take posts. They discussed previous appointments that had to be made to the Park Board. They were reminded, that in the last Park Board election, there were five candidates for three posts, and that former members were still interested but chose not to run because of the vast interest. A current Park Board Member mentioned three citizens interested in being on the Park Board.

In an effort to remedy the violations, without having a special election, citing the costs, the Reinbeck City Council chose to propose changing the Park Board to appointed members instead of elected seats.

A meeting was scheduled for February 11, 2015 at 5 p.m. at Reinbeck City Hall for the first reading of the proposed amendment of the City Chapter regarding the Park Board. The City Administrator advised if there is no opposition at the first reading they can waive the second and third reading and adopt the measure that night. The City Attorney made clear her advice to carry out three public reading. The Council discussed the time line for three readings and inquired if the amendment required publication. Advice from the City Attorney was that it did not require prior publication to the first reading and that time is a factor in getting this violation of State Code satisfied.

Some members of the City Council contended that the illumination of the infraction was only brought to light because of less than forthcoming political motivation.

In fact, the Mayor and one of the sitting Councilmen are appointed officials themselves. They understand that a special election would require their positions to be on the ballot as well as the vacated Park Board positions.

The idea, that the Reinbeck City Council would rather take away the right of their citizens to vote for their Park Board representation expeditiously and without due process or public notification to avoid a special election is appalling.

It is not the idea that the City of Reinbeck is only one of three small towns in Iowa left that vote for their Park Board representatives, or the cost of an election that should dictate the actions of a sitting City Council to clean up a mess that they created themselves. I would also add that we have had two elections since that first vacancy and including one this past week in which could have addressed the issue.

I would urge the Citizens of Reinbeck to voice their opinions on the matter by calling Reinbeck City Hall, Members of the Reinbeck City Council, or the City Attorney. And advocate attending the meeting Wednesday February 11, 2015 and be heard.

Guillaume Williams, Reinbeck

 
 

 

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