The April 6 Spring Election ballot will include four advisory referendum questions about the Madison Common Council’s size, the amount of alderperson pay, alderperson term length and whether alderpersons should be subject to term limits.
The City will use the results of the referendum to help evaluate voter interest in pursuing any of the proposed changes, Madison Assistant City Attorney John Strange said in a written statement to The Badger Herald.
“For example, if 80% of voters favor imposing term limits on alderpersons, then the City will know that is a potentially popular change,” Strange said. “To the contrary, if only 20% of the electorate thinks that the City should impose term limits, then the City will know voters largely do not prefer that change.”
Because these questions are part of an advisory referendum, the results will not make an immediate change, according to Strange. Either additional election referendums or actions by the City Council are needed to make a permanent change. For example, changing the size of the City Council would require the City to hold a binding referendum of the voters at a future Spring Election, Strange said.
The advisory referendum will also be used to gauge interest in a binding referendum in spring 2022 and if implemented, the changes would take effect in spring 2023, according to the City of Madison website.
Strange said a formal review of Madison’s government structure has not been done since the 1980s when the city was smaller and less diverse.
Because of this, the Common Council asked the Task Force of Government Structure to explore whether Madison’s government has been working for all residents and what changes could be made to ensure it does, Strange said.
The Task Force has conducted meetings, met with residents, examined structures in other cities and debated numerous issues and recommendations throughout this process, Strange said.
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“The spring referendum is part of this process,” Strange said. “The questions that appear on the spring ballot ask the voters some of these key questions that the Task Force debated and discussed related to the size and shape of the Common Council.”
The Task Force’s Final Report recommended Madison transition to a 10-member full-time Common Council with alderpersons earning approximately $67,000 per year, according to the City of Madison website. It also recommended alderpersons serve four-year terms and be subject to term limits of 12 consecutive years, according to the website.
Not all of the recommendations were unanimous, so this referendum will be an opportunity to hear directly from voters about what they think about these questions, according to the website.
Madison voters can visit the City Clerk’s Office website to learn how to register for the Spring Election.