Size, shape of city body discussed

Register Reporter

It will likely be 2011 before a new governing body for Iola can be established, but the city has flexibility in determining how its new city council is comprised.
Those were the points made Thursday by Sandy Jacquot, general counsel for the League of Kansas Municipalities, who spoke about Iola voters’ decision in April to disband their existing city commission in favor of a mayor-city council structure. She addressed a crowd numbering less than 20, half of which were city officials.
If the existing commissioners do nothing, the new form of government — an eight-member council with two councilmen from each of Iola’s four voting wards and an independently elected mayor — will be seated in April 2011, Jacquot said. All nine positions would be up for re-election every two years after that.
“That’s also very inefficient and I will tell you a majority of the cities in Kansas have created what we call ‘staggered elections,’ so that you don’t lose all your experience off a governing body at one time,” Jacquot said. “It just helps with continuity of governmental functions.”
Iolans also would elect a city treasurer under the new form of government, becoming the only city in the state to do so, Jacquot said. All of the other communities in Kansas have adopted charter ordinances turning the treasurer into an appointed position. Deb Troxel is current city treasurer, a position appointed by the commission.
Because of a looming October deadline to set charter ordinances at least two months before the January filing deadline for city candidates, it’s probably too late for the city to hope for a new council in 2010.
“It’s conceivable you could get that done by the 2010 election, but it would be tight right now,” she said. “2011 is probably a better target. And you still have a lot of work to do before 2011.”
And then there is the issue of redrawing the boundaries for the four voting wards to ensure each ward has roughly the same population. The new boundaries would need to be in place before the new council takes shape.
Jacquot wondered if the city would be well served to develop a panel of local residents to discuss the size and makeup of a new city council through a number of public meetings so that Iolans know precisely how they will be governed. The city is offered flexibility through charter ordinances, which essentially declare “home rule” to exempt or allow Iola to deviate from state law.
Jacquot stressed that she was not at Thursday’s meeting to promote a specific guideline for the city. She was there only to reveal Iola’s options.
“I don’t have a dog in this fight,” she said. “The bottom line is, you are not bound with having nine governing body members that you have to elect every two years, with an elected city treasurer. You have a tremendous opportunity to decide how you will be governed.”

IOLA commissioners are expected to discuss Jacquot’s presentation when they meet Tuesday afternoon at their next bi-monthly meeting.
The 1 p.m. meeting will be at City Hall and is open to the public.