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Monroe goes to at-large city council
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MONROE - Despite originally pushing to change to an 11-person, at-large government body, Monroe Common Council members voted 4-3 in favor of keeping the group at nine members. Most approved the change to an at-large system.

On Tuesday, Aldermen Chris Beer, Reid Stangel, Richard Thoman and Michael Boyce voted to have nine members on the council. Fellow members Ron Marsh, Tom Miller and Brooke Bauman lost out in their vote in favor of 11 total. Aldermen Jeff Newcomer and Charles Koch were absent from the meeting.

Voting to move to an at-large system was supported by all except Thoman.

The original ordinance draft called for 11 at-large council members, but discussion during the public hearing by aldermen led to a change in the language.

During the public hearing, a handful of residents spoke out against the change to an at-large system. Ward 5 resident LaVern Isely, who has been a vocal opponent of the change, stood during the hearing to proclaim the idea as "taxation without representation."

"I feel each ward should have an alderperson," Isely said. "The people I talked to didn't like the idea. They think it's a bad idea too."

Monroe resident Randy Blumer stood to say he agreed with Isely, and would prefer to have a representative in each ward.

But as a proponent of the change, Monroe resident Mary Soddy said she could see merit in the switch to an at-large system and understood why the council was considering a shift.

"Monroe is a small city," Soddy said. "Everything that happens in one part of the city affects all of the city."

Soddy also supported the change to 11 members, and expressed disapproval at the idea of the council shrinking to a smaller number if the city population continued to dwindle.

"We need to make it easier for more qualified people to run, not fewer," Soddy said.

Beer said she had been contacted by a number of people within, and outside of, her ward who were against the change to an at-large system, while Bauman said her experience was the opposite. Bauman added that one of the key reasons the council was debating this change is that people generally reach out to who they know rather than their ward representative, a premise that was reinforced through this example.

The change to an at-large system means that current council members will serve out their remaining terms before entering re-election as one of the nine members to possibly be elected to office rather than designated to a ward number.

The at-large aldermen will be elected for two-year terms in the annual spring election. Four aldermen will be elected in the odd-numbered years, and five aldermen will be voted on in the even-numbered years. None of the candidates will be associated with a ward any longer.

The passage of the ordinance eliminated aldermanic districts from city code.