Election to decide council quorum
The people have spoken and the Tonganoxie City Council has listened: In January Tonganoxie residents will go to the polls to decide the council's quorum size and possibly Sunday liquor sales.
At the Nov. 13 council meeting, city council members approved, by a 4-1 vote, to pay for a special election that will leave the fate of charter ordinance 17 up to the people.
On Aug. 13, the council unanimously voted to adopt the charter ordinance, which changed the number of council members needed for a quorum from three to four. The increased quorum would allow two council members to meet outside of a public meeting to discuss city business.
In September, a petition was filed blocking the ordinance from taking effect.
"The petition was to bring it up to a vote," said council member Tom Putthoff during the meeting. "I didn't see where it said that they were against it when they brought up their petition."
Putthoff made the motion to call for a special election that was seconded by council member Jason Ward.
During the discussion before the vote, council member Jim Truesdell said that if somebody were to abuse their position as a council member, they would do it regardless of the ordinance.
"I'm perfectly willing to let the people of Tonganoxie decide," Truesdell said. "It's not our decision, it's the people's decision and I think that's the right thing to do."
Former council member Velda Roberts, who along with Roger and Phyllis Shilling, gathered the necessary signatures needed to petition the ordinance, was not happy with the council's decision.
"I'm disappointed, but they certainly have a right to do that," Roberts said. "The idea of open meetings, for me, is that the business of the city should be discussed openly."
Roberts said the council members might have good intentions, but closed meetings between two council members is too risky. Council members who want to become better informed about issues involving the city are better off speaking with department heads who are in the know, instead of other council members, she said.
On Wednesday, council member Paula Crook, who was the dissenting vote against the special election, said the issue wasn't pressing enough that the city needed to spend $1,200 for the special election and the council should have dropped the ordinance that night.
That's when Crook got the idea to combine this controversial vote with another controversial vote -- Sunday liquor sales.
"I don't believe that the liquor stores should have to pay for the elections when there is an opportunity to put it up on this ballot," Crook said.
Previous attempts to bring Sunday liquor sales to Tonganoxie were unsuccessful at earlier city council meetings. The only way for Mary Krause, owner of Mary's retail liquor, and other Tonganoxie liquor retailers to open up Sunday sales was to pay for their own special election or wait until the next general election in August.
"We are going to the next council meeting and requesting that they put it up for vote to let the people decide," Krause said.
Although Roberts supports a special election to let the people decide about Sunday liquor sales, she doesn't think the city would be best served by the two elections happening simultaneously.
"There are people who have very strong feelings on liquor sales," Roberts said. "There could be a whole different group of people who really don't care what the council does and only want to vote on liquor sales. These are issues that should stand on their own."
For now, Kathy Bard, assistant city administrator, said the council will have to decide to put liquor sales on the ballot during the Nov. 26, council meeting. Bard said the elections are expected to be held Jan. 15, 2008.