The Board of Trustees scheduled a Public Hearing for February 13th on the local law extending their terms to four years from the current two and to align Village elections with Federal elections on the even years.
Public Hearings are required on all local laws to give community members a chance to voice their opinions.
The idea of extending the terms originated with four Mamaroneck High School students in Mr. Liberti’s Original Civic Research program. After research, the students theorized that holding elections in even years would increase voter participation. They studied no other aspect of the elections or the change.
The Board of Trustees mentioned several other reasons for extending their terms at their meeting. Mayor Murphy stated that the three newly elected Trustees (Young, Yizar-Reid, and Rawlings) ran on a platform that included this change and that they are implementing their platform, thus, fulfilling the wishes of the voters. Trustee Rawlings agreed and said the Village shouldn’t have an election every year because they can’t get things done. Rawlings also wants to make things simpler for voters.
Trustee Lucas suggested that two-year terms made the Board more accountable to the voters and that the students’ data analysis showing better voter turnout in even years was flawed. She suggested that the change appeared “self-serving” and motioned that the law be changed to taking effect in 2024 and linked to a referendum on the November 2023 ballot. That motion failed.
Trustee Yizar-Reid disagreed and said, “I hold myself accountable to the voters,” implying the length of the term didn’t affect accountability. She also explained how hard campaigning is and that running every two years is a lot of wear and tear on the body and soul. She urged fellow Board members to be mindful of all the parts (of an election).
Although he clearly spoke in favor of the change, Trustee Young said more than once that he wanted to hear from the public.
Trustee Lucas raised the issue that there will still be annual elections in the Village as the County and Town elections are in the odd years. Lucas further stated that this change may have the unintended effect of lowering voter turnout for these elections. Yizar-Reed maintained that when people vote, it’s for an important issue, implying that voters would vote in the odd years.
Trustee Young asserted that he had spoken to County Executive George Latimer and that Latimer is in favor of the change. Young reportedly invited Latimer to speak at the hearing on February 13th.
The current proposed law would be subject to a permissive referendum. A permissive referendum is different from the referenda that typically appear on November ballots. Once the Board of Trustees adopts the local law, anyone wishing to have the voters decide the matter must organize a petition drive, collect at least 2,388* signatures of registered Village voters, and present the completed petition to the Board of Trustees within 30 days of the law’s adoption. The Village would then have 60 days to call for a referendum for voters to decide whether to extend the terms of their local elected officials.
Instead of requiring the voters to initiate a daunting petition process the Board, if it was so inclined, could put the matter on the November ballot so the voters could make their voices heard directly on the issue.