Residents warn council of petition to force special election

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

   During the Open Forum portion of the Oct. 24 Monticello City Council meeting, two city residents approached the council regarding their intent to force a special city election.

   “A few years ago, I talked about switching from wards to all at-large. That’s what we’re going to do again this year,” warned Kaye Junion.

   “We just want to give you the courtesy of heads-up that there is a petition going around town to do just that with the advice of the county auditor,” said Tom Osborne.

   Osborne said he’s aware of the fact that they need to secure 10 percent of the voters from the last city election, which is 59 signatures. (Iowa Code notes 25 percent.) This would then “call for a special election to change the city council representation.”

   He continued, “Currently we have four wards, one representative from each ward, and two at-large. The petition is to ask for a special election to change that to all six at-large.”

   “So the purpose of this is that everybody would get to vote on every candidate?” asked Mayor Dave Goedken.

   Osborne said there have been different conversations and reasons over the past year as to why people prefer all at-large council representatives.

   “For me, it’s about that,” he said. “I want to be able to vote for all six council people.”

   Other reasons, shared Osborne: “The council doesn’t really respond or act on ward-specific actions. There seems to be a lack of a purpose for wards, other than for voting members in. You should be voting on what’s best for the city, not what’s best for your ward.”

   Junion asked, “When was the last time you held a meeting with all of the constituents in your ward?”

   Osborne said as they start to secure signatures, undoubtedly people might ask questions of the council, which is why they were bringing it to their attention.

   “The reception has been awesome!” he added.

   Council member Tom Yeoman asked both Junion and Osborne if they were aware of the cost associated with forcing a special election. Osborne offered, “$4,000.”

   “I talked to the county auditor today,” clarified City Clerk/Treasurer Sally Hinrichsen, “and she said that the Anamosa school (special) election ran for $5,500. They only had one ballot. Ours would require four ballots, so it would be closer to $6,000.” (Pending the rising cost of paper.)

   “How much of that are you guys willing to contribute?” asked Yeoman.

   Osborne respectfully disagreed with Hinrichsen’s figure.

   “The information I received personally from the county auditor was $4,000,” he told the council. “And we are asking the council to pay for it all, whether it’s $4,000 or $6,000.

   “We do anticipate turning this (petition) into the Monticello City Clerk within the next couple of weeks with the necessary signatures,” concluded Osborne.

   Per Iowa Code, if eligible voters file a petition with the city, the city has 15 days within receipt of the petition to publish a notice of the date of a special election. The city must also notify and work with the county commissioner of elections/county auditor to set up the ballot.

   The next regular city/school election is November 2023.

In other city business:

   • The council held a public hearing and approved the first and final readings of an ordinance to re-zone a lot located at the corner of N. Sycamore Street and E. Second Street from R-1 single-family residential to R-2 two-family dwelling.

   The lot is owned by Four H Properties. Work has already begun demolishing a single-family home in order to build a two-unit duplex.

   The current address is 202 N. Sycamore St. It will be re-addressed as 201 and 203 E. Second St.

   The Planning & Zoning Board reviewed the re-zoning request at their Sept. 28 meeting. They recommended unanimous approval.


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