In Jerome, political winds can change as dramatically as the weather in March.
Hot today. Cold tomorrow.
We had a classic example of that at Jerome’s Tuesday town council meeting.
For the past year, Jerome appeared -- at long last – to be embracing the idea of allowing for staggered four-year terms for the members of its elected town council.
It’s a practice accepted for both town/city councils and school boards throughout the rest of the Verde Valley, and, in fact, most if not all of the rest of the State of Arizona.
It’s widely accepted as a wise method of governance because it provides some degree of experience on the elected body when new members are elected to its ranks. You have elections every two years with roughly half the council/school board seats up for election. New officials learn the ropes of elective-level service from the experienced members of the council.
That’s the theory, anyway. There’s hardly any evidence over the past 30 years that Jerome has suffered in any discernible way by often rolling over entire elected councils every two years. And why not? Unlike most jurisdictions in Arizona, Jerome council members receive no compensation for their service. When you’re working for free, after two years who can blame them if they want to say it’s somebody else’s turn.
And, considering the state of politics in America today, Jerome’s Jane Moore made a pretty good point Wednesday on social media when she said if the truth be known, there are a lot of people out there who would welcome the opportunity to choose their elected representatives more often.
Beginning about a year ago, the political winds on staggered terms in Jerome began to shift. The council in place then agreed they had no issue with letting Jerome voters decide the issue. It ended up on the ballot and Jerome voters approved the change.
By seven votes.
In Jerome, that’s practically a mandate considering the fact that it’s not out of the ordinary for council members to win their elected seats by a single vote. Alex Barber is sitting in the mayor’s chair, for example, because she was the top vote-getter in the last election by a single vote.
Tuesday, though, those old political winds in Jerome took a sudden twist. The new town council unanimously voted to rescind the decision of the town’s voters in November and do away with staggered terms for its elected council.
Just like that.
This is not the first time Jerome has played ping-pong with staggered terms. In 1992, the town adopted staggered terms for its town council, but it was short-lived as a voter referendum reversed the decision.
That one was easier to swallow. Then, it was the majority of the town’s voters who pulled the plug on staggered terms.
This time, the 5-member town council pulled the plug on a majority decision of the town’s voters. They did so without a hint of grief from the community. No one showed up to the meeting to object.
So, short of a legal challenge to Tuesday’s council decision by a registered voter of the town, we’re back to where we started from in Jerome. The full council is up for election every two years.
You never can tell when the political winds will shift in Jerome.