Council Reform

Introduction

Hi. Thanks for browsing this page about city council reform.

I made some promises while I was running for office, and I want to follow through on them. One question I was overwhelmingly asked was why city council is the size that it is, and can it be smaller? Great question.

Additionally, I have had dozens of people ask why our local leaders have to declare a political party to run for office. Another great question.

From my perspective, there are several reasons to work on both of these issues:
Council Reduction

  • In 2018, our roadmap to sustainability committee suggested reviewing (reducing) the size of council
  • Many residents feel that the size of local government is too big
  • We’re going to have to make changes to every level of Quincy’s Government to remain sustainable, and to be effective in that effort, city council needs to look everywhere – including at itself

Nonpartisan Elections

  • There are few communities in Illinois which operate by partisan elections
  • There are people who are interested in running for office but are deterred by the current partisan system
  • At a local level, political party is irrelevant to the infrastructure we build and garbage we pick up

I believe that phase one of city council reform was the 2019 healthcare reform sponsored by Alderman Reis. Phase two is reduction and nonpartisan.

Hopefully the information below answers any questions you may have. If not, feel free to reach out.

– Ben Uzelac, 7th Ward Alderman, City of Quincy

Questions

What is involved in this phase of council reform?
If adopted, the following would take effect in 2023:

  • Reduce the size of council from 14 to eight
  • Reduce the number of aldermen from two per ward to one per ward
  • Increase the number of wards from seven to eight
  • Transition to nonpartisan elections

Why does the plan need to be implemented in 2023? Can’t it happen sooner?
The next city election(s) will take place in the first part of 2021. These referendums will be on the November 2020 ballot, which is after petitions for the 2021 election have circulated. Therefore it is impossible to take effect sooner than 2023.

How do these propositions become real?

  1. City Council must adopt the council reduction referendum ordinance
  2. Once adopted, the voters in Quincy will vote (Nov 3rd, 2020) whether they want to reduce the size of council
  3. City Council must adopt the nonpartisan referendum ordinance
  4. Once adopted, the voters in Quincy will vote (Nov 3rd, 2020) whether they want to transition to nonpartisan elections

When does council need to adopt the ordinances?
City council must adopt the ordinances by August 17th, 2020 in order for the questions to appear on the November 3rd ballot.

Why reduce to 8 aldermen instead of 7? Or 6?
We currently have 14 aldermen – two per ward with seven wards. If we cut the size of council in half, that would leave 7.

However, having an even number of Alderman keeps the mayor as the tie-breaking vote.

There are concerns about the quality of service we would be able to provide if there were only 6 aldermen.

Why add another ward?
If we maintained 7 wards, we would need to have one “at-large” alderman in order to keep an even number of aldermen. This would create another layer of government, which is counter-productive to the reform plan.

What if I don’t think 8 the right number?
Ultimately, that should be up to the voters to decide. Call or email your aldermen and let them know your thoughts. If you prefer 10, or 900, or even the current 14, let your aldermen know.

What if I want to have two aldermen representing me?
Again, that should be up to the voters to decide. Call or email your aldermen and let them know your thoughts.

How will the council reduction work?
If the referendum passes in November 2020, several things will happen.

  • Anyone running for city council in 2021 will serve a two-year term instead of a four-year term
  • All 14 aldermanic terms will expire in 2023
  • Half of the (8) aldermen elected in 2023 will serve a 2-year term, and the other half will serve a 4-year term. Every term after that would be a 4-year term

Why would half of the aldermen serve a 2-year term?
It is important to stagger election terms to ensure that institutional knowledge carries over to new city council members.

The 2-year term will only occur for the 2023 election. Every election after would be a 4-year term.

Is there a cost savings?
Yes. Reducing from 14 to 8 aldermen will equate to over $40,000 minimum yearly reduction in city council expenses. There may be additional cost savings in reduction of other expenses like city-provided cell phones, stipends, etc.

If elections are nonpartisan, does that mean the city would be entirely democracts or republicans?
No. Nonpartisan simply means declaring a party isn’t required to run for office.

I saw something about $200 per meeting. Are you giving yourself a raise?
NO. Our pay structure stipulates that we get paid per-meeting. We can’t change that structure. If we ever transition to biweekly meetings, we would go from 52 to 26 meetings. That would also mean we would be cutting our pay in half. Therefore, IF we transitioned to biweekly meetings, we would have to modify the amount of money we make. It looks like a raise on paper, but would not give us a single penny more than now.

Are there additional phases planned for council reform?
Yes. I intend to audit our meeting schedule and committees, to see if any restructuring can occur.

However – we’ve got to take one bite out of the apple at a time.

(Note: this page will be updated as additional questions are asked.)
This page was last updated on 08/04/20.

Have a Question?

If you have a question that isn’t listed above, please fill out the form below and I’ll try to get it answered.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.