The Board of Aldermen will vote Tuesday night on whether to seek Home Rule legislation to forego a special election to fill the position of Ward 1 alderman at-large, due to the death of Alderman Carleton Merrill.
The aldermen all understand what the charter instructs them to do in this instance; that’s why they’re voting on a Home Rule petition. I don’t completely understand why some of them think this situation is different from any other scenario in which there’s a vacancy on the board fewer than 15 months before the end of a term. Some rationalizations we’ve heard so far are there are too many elections this year and we already know what’s going to happen, so why hold the election?
I won’t give all of our aldermen this credit but some of them are pretty smart. They know that you don’t forego an election because you know how it’s going to turn out, and they know that you don’t arbitrarily decide that we have too many elections already, so let’s just scrap this one. They know that the arguments in favor of holding a special election that piggybacks the June 25 special election for U.S. Senator are stronger than the arguments against it.
Probably this was a decision made by a few people who didn’t really think it through. Probably their thinking was that Scott Lennon would run for the at-large seat, win, and vacate his ward seat, so why bother? Maybe they thought they could save the city a little money, show a little fiscal responsibility. They could spare the administration from a possible political hit for an election that might leave another vacancy. Nobody wants to take that risk with an override vote on the horizon.
Their intentions were probably good, but they were so inwardly focused, they made the wrong call.
Ok. It happened. Now what?
For some aldermen, Tuesday’s vote will pit their principles against their loyalty. Alderman Lennon may be recusing himself, but voting against the docket item is really a vote against leadership. Lennon couldn’t possibly want the election to be held before November — he’ll look silly for leaving one seat vacant to run for another.
So, the real question becomes: How principled are our aldermen? They might know what’s right but decide that this just isn’t an issue that’s worth the fight. Or, they — especially the attorneys among them — might stick to their principles and do what they know is right.
It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.