Fritzler, Monty, Adams, Jack Elected – A Few Thoughts
The polls are closed and the returns are in. Joel Fritzler will be our new mayor and Don Monty, Jane Adams, and Lance Jack will join the city council. Fritzler’s old council seat will need to be filled, and mayoral candidate Steven Haynes will leave the council. Sitting mayor Brad Cole and council members Mary Pohlmann and Michael Neill, none of whom ran for reelection, will also leave the council.
First, I voted for all the winners so I’m happy with the results. But the 2011 election season isn’t quite over. Since Fritzler won the mayoral election, his council seat will need to be filled by appointment. I wrote in February that the most democratic option is to appoint the fourth place finisher:
…It seems to me that the natural person to appoint would be the candidate who finishes in fourth place in the April 5 election.
When Lance Jack resigned last year it had been nearly two years since the last election, but that wouldn’t be the case this time. Since council members are usually elected, and since the appointment would happen so near the election, I think the fourth place finisher would have a strong democratic claim on Fritzler’s old council seat.
That claim would be even stronger if the race for third place is very close. In this week’s primary, one vote separated third place (Tom Grant) and fourth place (Lance Jack). If Fritzler is elected mayor and I was the candidate who finished a close fourth in the April 5 election, I would expect to be appointed to Fritzler’s old seat.
Lance Jack, who finished third and won a seat on the council, received 772 votes. Tom Grant, who finished fourth and did not win a seat on the council, received 744 – a difference of only 28 votes. Meanwhile, 84 votes separate Grant and Bradshaw, his nearest opponent. I think the case is strong to appoint Grant to fill Fritzler’s council seat, and I hope our new mayor and council will agree.
Second, I think Fritzler won a convincing victory. I was hoping to avoid a situation where the four candidates more or less equally split the vote. A 25.01% victory wouldn’t have been very convincing. We avoided it this time, but anything is possible in the next election. As others have suggested, at the very least Carbondale should use it’s home rule authority to return to the old system in which only two candidates for each seat continue to the general election.
Third, I don’t think it’s possible to really know who would have won a two person Fritzler vs. Maroney election, but I strongly suspect Fritzler would still have won. I’m betting against the conventional wisdom that Goldman’s voters would have broken for Fritzler. I think Maroney would have gotten a majority of them. But I also think Fritzler would have gotten an even larger majority of Haynes’ voters and he still would have won.
Fourth, I think this election should mark the end of the Lance Jack liquor license controversy. As most readers will remember, Lance Jack was forced to resign the council last year in order to get a liquor license for his restaurant. I wrote two posts (one, two) criticizing Joel Fritzler’s interpretation of state and local laws, which he cited as his reason for voting against the license. Now, for the third time, voters have returned Lance Jack to the city council – even knowing that he has a liquor license. The new mayor and council should not reopen the Fat Patties liquor license controversy.
Fifth, whether justified or not (and I think it’s not), there is a perception that the business community is uneasy with Fritzler and vice versa. Fritzler’s poor performance in the admittedly unscientific Chamber of Commerce membership poll was bad enough and his reaction (at least as quoted in the papers) didn’t necessarily help. Now that the election is over, business should accept and work with Fritzler, and Fritzler should make it clear that he has no hard feelings.
Continuing Brad Cole’s tradition of delivering a “state of the city” address as a Chamber fundraiser would be a wise move for Fritzler. If Fritzler is concerned about citizen access, and I think he is, he could continue Cole’s tradition of televising the speech on channel 16, or even insist that some free tickets be available. At the same time, business should close ranks and support the duly elected mayor. At the municipal level, cooperation between business and government benefits both.
Sixth, I noticed that this is the second mayoral election in a row in which the second place finisher in the primary went on to win the general election. I don’t think it’s that important, but I wonder why it happens. Does the first place finisher get complacent, or does the second place finisher get motivated? A little of each?
Seventh, I wonder if Maroney’s lack of a website contributed to his defeat. I don’t have strong evidence that this is the case, but I have a hunch and some weak evidence. WordPress (my blogging software) gives me a variety of stats showing how people arrive at my blog. For most of the election, search terms like “george maroney carbondale” or “carbondale mayor maroney” brought more people to my blog than searches for any other candidate. I took that as evidence that Maroney would win.
Now that he has lost, I suspect his lack of a website hurt him. People searched for information on Maroney and, instead of finding a site controlled by him and extolling his virtues, they found this blog. This should be a lesson to future candidates. Times have changed. It will be tough to win a mayoral election in Carbondale without a website.
Eighth, as others point out, turnout was lower this year than in some recent elections. Our neighbor to the east, which has several thousand fewer citizens, had almost a thousand more voters than Carbondale. The total Carbondale mayoral vote in 1999 (pdf) was 4,367; in 2003 (pdf) it was 3,507; in 2007 (pdf) it was 3,903. In 2011, the total mayoral vote was 2,683. That suggests apathy, which is a problem.
Ninth, compliments to SIUC journalism student and local news blogger Barton Lorimor, who’s live election return updates on his B(ee)tl(e)Juice blog kept me up to date. Check his site if you want exact vote totals for mayor, city council, school district 95, and the John A. Logan board.
I’ll probably have more to say on this in a future post, but these are some preliminary thoughts.
Comments are welcome.