PRAIRIE CITY - Three candidates have launched write-in campaigns for mayor of Prairie City: Lance Delgado, Jim Hamsher and Paul Woodworth.
Incumbent Leonard Wolf opted not to run again, but it wasn't widely known so nobody filed in time to seek Wolf's seat as a candidate on the ballot. Voters will be asked to write in the name of their favorite candidate on the Nov. 5 election ballot.
On Oct. 23, the Prairie City City Council voted to endorse one of its own, Delgado, as the council's choice for mayor.
Prior to asking for the endorsement, Delgado left his seat on the city council and sat down in the audience. Facing the city council, he said, "I would like the council to endorse my write-in candidacy for mayor."
The city council assented. Wolf was not present at the meeting, and Mort Rennels also was absent, leaving a quorum of Anna Bass, Marvin Casebeer, Karen Jacobs and Roger McKinley. Casebeer moved to endorse Delgado, Bass seconded, and the city council gave its unanimous approval.
Bass, acting as mayor, told the audience that the Oregon Secretary of State's office had clarified that the city council can endorse candidates, and that only paid city staff are prohibited from taking political stances during working hours. (The Oregon Secretary of State's office confirmed this information.)
The write-in campaigns for Delgado and Hamsher present an electoral quirk. The names of both write-in candidates appear on the ballot because both candidates filed to run uncontested for city council seats. (The terms for Casebeer, Delgado and Rennels expired this year; Casebeer and Delgado are running to regain their seats, while Hamsher is seeking the position held by Rennels, who is choosing not to run again.)
So what's a voter to do? Choose Delgado and Hamsher in their respective council races and then write in one or the other for mayor as well?
Yes, according to the Oregon Elections Division. An official in that office clarified that the voters can express their preference between candidates for mayor, and then the winning candidate can choose between being a councilor or being mayor. Both candidates have expressed a preference for the mayor's position, so it's likely the city council will need to appoint a council person to fill that vacancy. In any event, candidates running successfully for a ballot position and a write-in position can choose between the two when elected.
"It's determined by what certificate of election they sign and send back," explained Summer Davis, compliance specialist with the Oregon Elections Division.
In other business:
Grant County Fair Manager Carolyn Stout sought city support for the fourth annual Festival of Trees, a community fund-raiser which will take place Friday, Dec. 13.
"It is our goal to get every community in Grant County involved," Stout explained.
The city council agreed to consider donating a tree or sponsoring a tree. Food raised from the festival benefits communities.
Debbie Letosky, parent volunteer in the second-grade class of Judy Jacobs at Prairie City School, sought a city contribution to allow the community to host the Missoula (Mont.) Children's Theater next March. Letosky said as many as 50-60 local children out of a student population of 208 would be able to participate in the theater's production, with leadership provided by three theater staff. The local PTA noticed that Monument School hosts the group every other year, so school staff welcomed the idea of alternating with Monument as a host community, Letosky said.
Total cost to stage a production through Missoula Children's Theater is $2,400. Half, $1,200, is being offered by the school. Letosky said she is asking the city and the county to match halves on the remainder ($600 each). The city's donation budget is $3,500. Letosky requested a decision by next month.
Councilor Jacobs endorsed the concept.
"I've been to these productions. They're terrific," she said.
Letosky noted that school staff supports the idea because, although rehearsal occurs during classtime, the production is a unique opportunity for children to learn theater arts.
The council tabled the issue for discussion.
Police Chief Dave Welch reported that the city had received grants to pay for overtime to help his department enforce traffic laws. In his update to the council, Welch also reported that he counted 140 junk vehicles on a recent morning, causing the city council to revisit the issue of how to deal with unsightly discarded vehicles within city limits.
"There are residents that have seven or eight discarded cars," Welch told the council. "I never realized how many we have."
Delgado noted that the council has discussed an abatement ordinance, but the question that surfaces is: "How do you apply the order and treat everyone fairly and equally?" Delgado said he preferred a cooperative approach.
Welch said, "It's not going to be something that we solve overnight."
The city council placed this issue on the council's "action list" of city priorities.
Public works director Bob Titus said he conducted a landfill inspection on Oct. 23 and that he was satisfied with the overall condition of the site. He urged a definitive evaluation process, not just occasional photographs taken by city officials, to gauge how fast the landfill is filling up with garbage.
Scott Nebeker, secretary-treasurer for Anderson-Perry and Associates of La Grande, formally announced that the city's wastewater-treatment system had been completed. He said his engineering firm had handed over all paperwork to the city. He presented a plaque to Bass.
"It represents the biggest or one of the biggest public works projects you've undertaken as a city," Nebeker said of the $800,000 wastewater system project.
Next meeting of the city council is 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13