BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Menlo Park City Council tonight (May 8) will discuss going to the voters with two questions: Should council members have term limits? And should the city have a charter that would allow council to decide how council elections will work?
Councilmen Ray Mueller, who is in his second term, and Rich Cline, who is in his third, asked to put the term limit proposal on the agenda. Each council term is four years.
Supporters have argued previously that term limits make it easier for new candidates to get on council. Opponents say it should be up to the voter to decide if somebody has served in office too long. A report from City Clerk Judi Herren said incumbents have been re-elected in six of the last nine council races. In all nine of these council races, there has been at least one challenger to the incumbents.
Atherton, Belmont and San Carlos don’t have term limits. Redwood City, San Mateo, Mountain View and Palo Alto do.
Redwood City allows for members to serve four consecutive terms. San Mateo allows for three consecutive terms while Palo Alto and Mountain View permit two consecutive terms.
While the Menlo Park City Council doesn’t have term limits, the city’s commissions do. Commissioners have to take a year break after serving two consecutive terms.
If the council decides to put the term limit question to voters, it would be slated for the November ballot, according to Herren.
‘General law’ vs. charter city
The other issue council will take up is whether to ask voters to change Menlo Park from a “general law” city to a charter city.
Currently, as a general law city, Menlo Park’s rules for elections are established by state law. State law only gives general law cities two options for electing a council — at large or by district. The city is switching to district elections this year due to the threat of a lawsuit.
A charter would give Menlo Park other options for electing its council, such as by ranked-choice voting, which drawn some support from those who have spoken at council meetings.
Ranked-choice voting, also referred to as instant-runoff voting, allows voters to rank their first, second and third choices. If one candidate has a majority of votes, they win.
If no candidate gets a majority, the candidate who came in last is eliminated and the votes for that person are redistributed to the second choices on the ballots. If there are no majority winners at that point, the process is repeated until a candidate wins.
The council may choose from one of four potential draft charters (available at https://bit.ly/2HOWaZf) to be placed on the November ballot.
Menlo Park Council meets at 7 p.m. tonight (May 8) at 701 Laurel St.