I have just attended my first City Council meeting in Princeton, Texas, where I noticed a curious quirk in the council’s makeup and voting policy.
The Princeton City Council comprises five council members and the mayor. That means there are six individuals on the governing board.
However, as the council was marching through its agenda, Mayor John-Mark Caldwell would call for a vote, asking council members to raise their hands if they approved a measure. Five hands went up; the mayor didn’t vote.
Hmm. I believe that is the first such governing body I’ve seen up close that (a) comprises an even number of officials and (b) doesn’t require the presiding officer, the mayor, to cast a vote.
Governing bodies usually are made up of odd-numbered officials, whether it’s five, seven or nine. The Amarillo City Council comprises five members, including the mayor. The Collin County Commissioners Court comprises an odd number of county commissioners. Why is the odd number the norm? Simple: it prevents tie votes when all members are present.
I used to cover a county commission in Oregon that was made up of just three commissioners. The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners functioned pretty well — most of the time — with just the bare minimum of commissioners needed to enact county policy.
In Princeton, where the mayor doesn’t vote on matters, policy decisions are made by an odd number of council members. The mayor is the ringmaster, who isn’t required to enter his vote into the public record.
I’m going to talk to city officials in the morning about an issue the council considered this evening. I need to find out more about this curious policy.
I’ll let you know what I learn.