When Wellington voters cast their ballots for the Aug. 30 primary election, among the decisions they will face is whether to change the village’s charter when it comes to filling council vacancies. The referendum asks, “Shall council vacancies exceeding 180 days be filled by special election rather than by appointment?”
Currently, the village charter requires such vacancies be filled by appointment. The amendment, if approved by Wellington voters, would eliminate appointments, and would fill council vacancies in the same manner as mayoral vacancies by requiring a special election if more than 180 days remain in the unexpired term. A seat with fewer than 180 days remaining would not be filled until the subsequent election.
The existing language has left Wellington voters out of the process when it comes to determining their village representation. Two of the current members of the Wellington Village Council, John McGovern and Tanya Siskind, got their seats by appointment, not election. While we would not suggest that their appointments were not good choices given the current rules, it would have been better had the voters had a say in the matter.
One of the primary arguments that has been raised against the measure is its financial aspect. It has been estimated that holding a special election costs at least $35,000. But that amount is a mere drop in the bucket when it comes to the overall expenses that Wellington experiences annually.
What’s more important than money is democracy, and giving Wellington’s voters the opportunity to decide who should represent their interests is crucial. This is not a knock against those who initially took seats on the Wellington Village Council by appointment. Some have gone on to become fine public servants. But the facts remain: 40 percent of Wellington’s current council was not initially elected — and that jumps to 60 percent when considering that both McGovern and Councilman Michael Napoleone took their seats by default when no one filed to run against them during the last election cycle.
This is also not a criticism of the available pool of talent in Wellington. Dozens of residents vied for appointment recently before Siskind was selected to fill a vacancy on the council. We believe it should be the voters making the choice, rather than the already-in-place political leaders. Furthermore, Wellington is not the only community that could use this change. We equally encourage other jurisdictions to consider placing a similar measure before their voters.
Early voting is going on now, through Sunday, Aug. 28, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and absentee ballots have already been sent out. The early voting site in Wellington is the Wellington library. However, voters can vote at any of the county’s early voting locations.
The Town-Crier strongly encourages voting YES on Wellington Referendum Question 1.