L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has declined to take a position on Charter Amendments 1 and 2, the measures on Tuesday's ballot that would move city and school board elections to even years. Garcetti has said that he can see both sides of the issue.
But back when he was running for mayor, Garcetti came out firmly against the idea. At a debate in February 2013, moderator Austin Beutner asked if Garcetti would support moving the city's elections to coincide with presidential elections, which Beutner claimed would save the city $20 million.
"We've looked at this, and you kind of have either fewer people, more focused, or more people less focused," Garcetti replied. "In a presidential election, I think you get lost in the noise. I'd rather, I think, keep things the way they are, but strive to have more and more participation."
Garcetti lamented low turnout at city elections.
"We need to boost that, but I think we also need to have an independent conversation to allow the space and place," Garcetti said. "If this was in November, I bet we would have been pretty busy thinking about other things."
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Garcetti also disputed Beutner's claim that the city would save money by consolidating elections with the county.
"When we looked at it, it wouldn't necessarily save," Garcetti said. "We would go into the county. We would pay, and the county charges actually more than it costs us sometimes to have our own poll workers."
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The fiscal effect of moving the elections is unknown, according to the city's official analysis of the charter amendments. Supporters of the amendments claim in their ballot argument that the move would save the city "millions," though they avoid using a specific figure. Opponents stress that the cost is unknown.
Supporters also argue it is better for democracy if more voters participate in the elections. But opponents contend that moving the election dates will make campaigns more costly, which would work in favor of special interests. The campaign to pass the amendments has taken money from Clear Channel Outdoor and the Lamar Companies, which are seeking approval for digital billboards, as well as developers and labor groups.
Opponents also note that as many as 22 city and school board officials would get an extra year and a half in office.
City Council President Herb Wesson led the effort to put the charter amendments on Tuesday's ballot. In declining to take a position on the matter, Garcetti may be avoiding a direct conflict with Wesson. Wesson's support is critical on other issues, including increasing the minimum wage and requiring building owners to do seismic retrofits.