Livingston voters to decide on mayor term extension

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJune 18, 2014 

— Voters in Livingston will be asked in November whether the term for mayor should be extended from two to four years.

The Livingston City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to put a measure on the ballot letting voters decide if the mayor seat should be up for re-election every four years, instead of two. Councilmen Arturo Sicairos and David Mendoza were absent.

Livingston Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra introduced the idea earlier this year, saying a two-year mayoral term opens the possibility of having four council seats up for election all at one time. He said the extension would maintain “institutional knowledge” on the council.

“Because the mayor’s term is every two years, that means in 2016, we could potentially have four seats coming up for election all at the same time,” said Samra, who was first elected to council in 1998. “You lose the historical knowledge and continuity.”

Samra wanted voters to decide in the June primary election, but a glitch in the paperwork caused a delay. “My original intention was to put it on the June election,” he said. “By the time everything got done, it was already too late to submit the measure for the ballot.”

Two seats are up for grabs this year on the City Council: Samra’s and Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza’s. Neither has announced plans to seek re-election, saying they are still “undecided.”

Espinoza did not return multiple calls for comment Wednesday. Samra said the mayor did not express opposition to the item in previous discussions.

If voters approve the measure, the winner of the November election would serve four years as mayor. The city of Livingston has no limit for how many consecutive terms a mayor can remain in office.

“I’m in support of letting the people decide. If they vote ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ it’s fine with me,” Samra said. “I’m just saying that it gives more continuity if you have more of a balanced election order.”

City officials estimate it will cost $7,000 to $8,000 to place the measure on the ballot.

At least one Livingston resident said the mayoral term should remain at two years.

“I think this measure is directed at extending the term of one individual,” said Mike McGuire, who said he’s lived in the city since 1958. “I just don’t see the need to extend the term of people who have been there too long as it is.

“I don’t know the reason something like this would come up unless someone is trying to extend his term in office,” he added.

A ballot measure in November 2006 called Measure C asked Livingston voters if their mayors should serve two- or four-year terms. About 66 percent of voters supported a proposal for a two-year term for the city’s mayor. The four-year-term option got a 49 percent yes vote.

The two longest-serving members of the current Livingston City Council are Samra, who’s served on-and-off for about 15 years, and Espinoza, who’s served 12 years.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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