Charter Review Committee
Number of City Councilors
Date: January, 2005
Sub Committee Member: Michael Riedeman, Keith Massie, Hal Cloer
Should the number of city councilors remain six or should it change to another number?
With six councilors, it takes the same number of council votes to pass an ordinance by majority (four votes) as it takes to over-rule a mayoral veto by a two-thirds vote (also four votes). Also a study published by the League of Oregon cities indicates that various Oregon cities have between and five and eight council members.
Fewer councilors may save the city expenses related to salary or benefits for councilors. More councilors may increase the city expenses related to salary or benefits for councilors.
Pros and Cons:
The number of council members affects the number and percentage of councilor support needed for a majority or a two-thirds veto over-ride as follow:
Number of 2/3 Veto
Councilors Majority Over-ride
5 3 (60%) 4 (80%)
6 4 (67%) 4 (67%)
7 4 (57%) 5 (71%)
8 5 (63%) 6 (75%)
Among these four options it should be hardest to pass an ordinance with six councilors and easiest with seven councilors. Also it should be hardest to over-ride a veto with five councilors and easiest to over-ride a veto with six councilors (in fact, with six councilors, if no councilor changes their vote after a veto it is a given that a veto will be overridden).
With six councilors, a mayoral veto holds little political authority, except that it may indicate a mayor's desire that council members voting affirmatively should reconsider their votes, and it would allow councilors further time for such reflection. With five, seven, or eight councilors, one more vote would be required to over-ride a mayoral veto. Therefore each of these three configurations gives the mayor more power than with six councilors.
A smaller council may be more focused and efficient, while a larger council may be more diverse and representative.
Proposing a reduction of the number of councilors may give voters a sense that they have less input into electing councilors of their choice, or it may somewhat increase the familiarity or visibility of elected councilors. Contrarily, proposing an increase in the number of councilors may give voters a greater sense of input into electing councilors, or it may dilute their awareness of who the various councilors are and what they stand for.
Regarding Oregon cities with populations between 13,000 and 29,000 citizens cited in the League report: one has five city councilors; five others have six councilors; none have seven councilors; and four have eight councilors. Here's the breakdown:
# of City # Elected
City Population Councilors # of Wards Seats/Ward At-large
Lebanon 13,110 6 3 2 0
Central Point 14,120 6 4 1 2
Hermiston 14,120 8 4 1 4
Pendleton 16,600 8 3 2 2
Newberg 18,750 6 6 1 0
Ashland 19,522 6 0 -- 6
Klamath Falls 19,680 5 5 1 0
Roseburg 20,170 8 4 2 0
Woodburn 20,860 6 6 1 0
Grants Pass 23,870 8 4 2 0
McMinnville 28,200 6 3 2 0
Note: If the Charter Review Committee decides in favor of some elections by ward, the number of councilors desirable could be impacted by the mapping of the city into wards.
The Charter Review Committee must evaluate several factors:
1. The number and percentage of council votes desired for a majority vote to pass an ordinance.
2. Whether a mayoral veto should hold more or less political authority (as affected by the number and percentage of votes required for a two-thirds vote to over-ride a veto.)
3. The number of council voices that would best balance expediency of discussions with diversity of ideas and opinions.
4. The number of council members that would allow voters the optimal diversity of input while maintaining voters' familiarity with councilors.
Resource for this Report:
"Ward Electoral Systems in Oregon Cities" by John Rehfuss, September 2003, http://www.orcities.org/webdocs/wards.Rehfuss.pdf