Knudtson, charter changes get voter approval

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Cape Girardeau voters resoundingly endorsed Mayor Jay Knudtson's bid for a second four-year term in office Tuesday. Voters also approved three amendments to the city charter by large margins, re-elected city council members Marcia Ritter and Charlie Herbst; and elected first-time councilman John Voss.

"Tonight we move forward with a new set of goals, tonight we build on the foundation we worked so hard to put together," said Knudtson while speaking to supporters at Buckner Brewing Company. "I am so excited about the roll we are on right now in Cape Girardeau, and as your mayor I look forward to keeping the roll going for you. We have great people, we have great opportunity and it is a great time to be in Cape Girardeau."

Knudtson received 1,656 votes, and opponent Walter White received 361. White, who ran on a platform of attracting more jobs to the area, could not be reached for comment.

Marcia Ritter was the only council member to receive opposition for her seat. She defeated challenger Richard Hengst 361 to 90 to keep her seat as councilwoman for Ward 6.

"My thoughts tonight are around the fact that I'm very happy and there are some issues I look forward to addressing in the next four years," said Ritter. "Those issues are especially comprehensive planning, transportation and disaster readiness. Those are things that I believe need to be addressed, and I'm glad I'll be able to be there to address them."

Hengst was out of town on Naval Reserve active duty during the election and ran a muted campaign.

Herbst of Ward 2 and Voss of Ward 1 each ran unopposed, receiving 134 and 173 votes respectively.

Voters approved three amendments to the city charter.

The first amendment dissolved the seldom-used ethics commission. If a commission is needed to resolve an ethics issue, council members could vote to form one or make use of the state commission.

The amendment passed by a margin of 1521 to 337.

A second amendment gives city hall the power to raise fees at parks or other special events by a margin of greater than five percent without calling for a city-wide vote.

Voter Harold Tilley's opinion seemed indicative of the amendment's 1567 to 411 margin. "I think the city has always been good stewards," said Tilley. "You come to a time when you need to adjust fees appropriately and they've never been unreasonable in doing that."

A third amendment gives council members the power to fill vacant seats through a majority vote without needing to wait for the next general election.

This amendment passed by a margin of 1702 to 284.

City manager Doug Leslie visited approximately 30 local clubs and civic groups in the weeks leading up to the election in an effort to explain the charter changes.

Some voters professed confusion at the lengthy wording of the amendments. Several commented that they had voted against the first amendment believing they were voting against the creation of an ethics commission. Similar confusion was noted on the other two amendments but were apparently not enough to skew the results.

335-6611, extension 245

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