KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — If passed on Nov. 4, five City of Kalamazoo charter amendments would change the way voters elect city leaders.
Currently, all seven spots on the Kalamazoo City Commission are up for election every two years. The candidate who gets the most votes is named the mayor and the runner-up becomes the vice-mayor. Kalamazoo has used the system for 100 years, but some say it is time for a change.
Proposal 1 would make the biggest change. It would make the mayor’s seat a separate elected position that would be up for grabs every two years.
Current Mayor Bobby Hopewell said he supports passing the proposals. He said the public has different expectations from a mayor than they do for a commissioner.
“Having the mayor elected separately allows you to get a clear understanding that this is what the job requires, that it’s not the same as it was 100 years ago when this all started. The expectations are higher, the challenges are more significant and the voice of this city is needed elsewhere,” Hopewell said.
Proposal 2 would change the terms lengths of city commissioners from two to four years, and stagger them so half the city commission would be up for election every two years.
Proposal 3 would make the top vote-getter every two years the vice-mayor.
Proposal 4 has to do with vacancies on the commission. Currently, the commission picks a replacement to fill the rest of the term. Under proposal, the commission would still pick a temporary replacement, but voters would fill the rest of the term in the next election.
Proposal 5 would require a city commissioner to resign if he or she plans to run for mayor.
Critics say they don’t see a need to change a system that has worked for so long.
The mayor disagrees.
“It’s important that we recognize that the citizens still decide. That’s what this election is about,” Hopewell said. “What I cherish most is that we’ve allowed our citizens to have their voice. And if they want to keep what we’ve been doing for 100 years, they can. If we want to move into the 21st century, we can do that as well.”
Many of these proposals are linked, so the failure of one would likely affect the outcome of the others.
The general election is set for Nov. 4. 24 Hour News 8 will bring you results as they come in on woodtv.com and will have results, reaction and analysis on at 10 p.m. on WXSP and 11 p.m. on WOOD TV8.