Subscribe for 17¢ / day

Davenport City Council is rightly marching toward a special election to fill the vacant 3rd Ward seat.

Options are limited. And there's no reason to delay things for any longer than necessary.

The seat was vacated this month when Bill Boom pleaded guilty to lying to a grand jury, a felony, in federal court. City Council could appoint someone to finish the rest of 2017.

But, in so doing, the council runs the risk of accusations of tilting November's election. Any appointee, in effect, might enjoy the Election Day benefits of incumbency, while, in fact, being an unelected member.

There's always the placeholder option that's been kicked around. Under this scenario, the council appoints a member who pledges to not seek the job in November's general election. At least one former official has expressed a willingness to serve within such a capacity.

Cheap, efficient and, most importantly, fair, the placeholder approach has merit for residents of the 3rd Ward and taxpayers at large.

But, it's election law that will likely force the council's hand. A petition with just 96 signatures can force an election in the 3rd Ward. Scott County Auditor Roxana Moritz said that multiple petitions are circulating already. Getting the required number of signatures should be a breeze for those doing the leg work.

So, Davenport City Council has limited options. It can appoint and be overruled by a petition, which would do little but rile voters and unnecessarily delay the process. Or it can vote Wednesday for the special election and get this whole thing rolling.

Mind you, this won't be cheap. The extremely high probability of the process actually resulting in two elections — a primary and a general — only bolsters the likely expense.

That's the process, though. Democracy is, by design, clunky, slow and expensive.

Earlier this week, City Council members indicated their preference for a special election. All available facts show it to be the correct course.

There's no reason to appoint, if a petition is bound to overrule the council. There's no reason to delay the entire process for weeks.

Bill Boom's legal troubles left a stain on the City Council. And they've left the 3rd Ward without representation. Meanwhile, a short-handed City Council is grappling with important issues, including riverfront development and restructuring its regulatory boards, places where Boom's voice was often the loudest.

There's clearly significant interest in the job. And the people of the 3rd Ward should have representation as soon as possible. It might come only after a primary that winnows the field and then a special election to choose the victor.

But that's better than a summer filled with unnecessary angst, petitions and accusations of favoritism in the lead up to November.

Davenport City Council this week looked keenly aware of the pitfalls should it choose any option other than a special election. Now it must act accordingly on Wednesday and approve a special election.

Third Ward residents deserve that much.

This editorial appeared in the April 28 edition of the Quad City Times, another Lee Enterprises publication.


Load comments