SAN RAMON -- In true democratic fashion, the San Ramon City Council will leave it up to residents to decide if the city should switch its election cycle from odd to even years.

The council voted 3-2 last week to place an initiative on the November ballot asking voters to switch to even years and extend the terms of the council and mayor by one year. Also, voters will also be asked to amend the city charter to allow the mayor to serve a nine-year term.

If the initiative is approved, San Ramon would save $210,000 per election and join the rest of Contra Costa County in holding even-year elections.

"Elections are something that is deeply ingrained in America, and we really want to be able to have a say in who our leaders are," said Mayor Bill Clarkson. "So one thought I had was to give residents the choice and ask, 'Do you want to extend (our term) and save some money or shorten our term, but it will cost some money?' "

Election costs were the reason council members David Hudson and Jim Livingstone cast the two dissenting votes, arguing that to realize an immediate savings of $210,000 the council should approve the switch and extend the terms without voter approval and eliminate the necessity for a 2013 election. Livingstone said the decision to switch from odd to even years has been debated for 10 years.

"The last 10 years, the council has not had the guts to make the call," said Livingstone. "We are elected by the people to make tough decisions. ... If we had done it 10 years ago, we would be a million dollars richer."

The council was presented with five different options to deal with its election cycle with Livingstone and Hudson favoring one that would give the council the authority to make the switch, but that motion lost 3-2.

According to Interim City Attorney Robert Saxe there is no law preventing the council from making the switch because the city's charter does not specify if elections should be held in even or odd years

A number of Bay Area municipalities have made the switch from odd- to even-year elections without having residents vote. Emeryville, in Alameda County, was the most recent, and Newark is also considering the switch. Livermore, which is also in Alameda County, switched to an even-year cycle last year but did it with their citizens' vote.

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