The City Council voted today to extend members' terms from two to four years. The measure now goes to Mayor Walsh and, if he approves, to the state legislature, whose members serve two-year terms.
Only Councilor Michelle Wu (at large) voted against.
Councilors say the move, which would make council elections concurrent with the election for mayor, will save the city roughly $1.6 million for off-year primaries and final elections and free them from the tyranny of being in non-stop campaign mode.
Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester), who pushed the measure, noted the low turnout in off-year council elections. "It requires a lot of time and effort on campaigning and organizing instead of devoting 100% of time [to the job]."
Baker dismissed concerns that eliminating the off-year elections would make it harder for newcomers to break into city government. He said low turnouts tend to favor incumbents - although he did acknowledge last year's off-year results, in which challengers defeated two entrenched incumbents.
Councilor Tim McCarthy (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan) said that after being away from his family, the hardest thing about being a councilor is asking friends for money when he knows they may not have it. He said a two-year term forces councilors to constantly worry about re-election rather than "thinking outside the box" for dealing with city issues.
Under the terms of the proposal, the council could call a special election to replace a member who leaves if there is eight or more months left on his or her term.
After the meeting, Wu said she recognizes the concerns - council agendas shrink in the weeks before elections as councilors are pulled away for campaign events - but that she thinks more frequent elections keep councilors more directly connected and "as accessible as possible" to the people they represent.
She said that four-year terms give incumbents that much more of a head start in fundraising, which could make it even harder for challengers to win.
Also today, the council voted to bar anybody from ever pulling a Yancey again and running for two municipal offices at once. That proposal, which also goes to the mayor, passed unanimously.