The nation is in the middle of the primary season to choose presidential nominees for the fall general election. Closer to home, here at the end of the first quarter of 2012, Keizerites will start thinking about our own election in November.
Three city council seats and the mayor’s post are up for election this year and we may actually have a contested election for the city’s top office. That would be good for Keizer and its voters. It is uncertain yet whether Mayor Lore Christopher will seek a seventh term, but candidates are getting ready to throw their hats in the ring.
As we’ve seen during Christopher’s tenure the mayor can use the office to be a cheerleader and booster for the city as well as set the tone for the city and use the bully pulpit of the job to steer debate and discussion.
The person sworn in as mayor in January, 2013, may have pet projects and visions for how to run the city, but they’ll find the financial cupboard fairly bare. It’s going to be hard to push an agenda when there is little money to accomplish much. The council and the city have done an admirable job of operating Keizer during tough economic times. The next few years will be just as rough for the city budget as the previous years. A dollar can stretch only so far. That should lead those running for mayor this year to think about the rationale for their campaigns and what they would do if they were elected.
We would like to see mayoral candidates pledge for more openness and transparency. In our view there are too many council executive sessions.
Executive sessions of the council are needed to discuss items that need to be kept private, such as personnel issues, labor issues and property negotiations. The council has been holding executive sessions that do not fall under any of these categories. The council and city staff choose to enter executive sessions that can just as well be conducted in public.
Per state law, none of the public’s business can be conducted in private, and Keizer does not. Yet Keizerites should be confident that their councilors are only discussing agenda items that demand an executive session. All other discussions and debates need to place in the council chambers before the public.
Candidates seeking office as a city councilor or mayor this year should pledge during their respective campaigns that they support openness and transparency. That alone would do much to engender trust and credibility that every public official wants.
Another issue that should be front and center during this year’s municipal elections is economic development. Candidates need to be pressured to say what they will do to jump start Keizer’s development that has flagged since Keizer Station opened. The mayor and the city council can’t affect the national or state economy but they certainly can put out the welcome mat to those who have the ability and desire to build in Keizer.
Government transparency and development are two issues that candidates can use to proof they are working for the betterment of Keizer.