The Bakersfield City Council is poised to discuss Wednesday how to fill the vacancy created by the suicide of Councilman Jeff Tkac earlier this month.

A clear majority of council members have already told The Californian they believe a special election ought to be held, especially since Tkac had just assumed the post and so its term would be nearly a full four-years long.

A city staff report says if the council wants a special election, one could be held on June 6, an election date the County of Kern has already established, at a cost to the city of about $100,000.

Holding a special election at a later date, not consolidated with the June 6 election, could cost the city more money, the staff report states. 

And the city needs to decide now, city staffers say, because the deadline to consolidate with the county's June election and meet other legal election deadlines is Feb. 3 and Wednesday's council meeting is the last meeting before that date.

The Ward 5 seat Tkac left vacant is in southwest Bakersfield. Tkac defeated longtime incumbent Harold Hanson in November but then shot himself to death in his home Jan. 5, stunning loved ones and colleagues of the popular longtime planning commissioner and reserve police officer.

There are various ways Tkac's post could be filled.

Per the city charter, Ward 5 residents have four weeks from the date of the vacancy to file a petition requesting a special election. The document must have the signatures of at least 25 percent of the votes cast in the last general election. In this case that number is 4,729.

If the petition is deemed sufficient, the council must call a special election to be held within six months of the certification of the petition, but no sooner than three months, according to the city staff report.

In the meantime, the council may, within two weeks after the filing of the valid petition, appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the special election results are certified.

If the petition is insufficient, the staff report says, the council may still call a special election or make an appointment to fill the balance of the term, which expires in November 2020.

The council may also choose to call a special election and not wait for the petition results.

The Kern-Inyo-Mono Central Labor Council has been circulating a petition urging the City Council to hold a special election. As of Tuesday morning it had collected 1,241 signatures, said council President Rob England. 

England was pretty confident Tuesday that the City Council will call an election, but said his group stands ready to continue collecting signatures if it does not.

The signature-gathering effort would "not be in vain" if the election is called Wednesday, England said.

"Every person we get civically engaged is a victory," he said.

Also Wednesday, the council will:

• Choose a wall design for the 24th Street widening project. The overwhelming majority of residents who have voted on the options, 82 of 114, have chosen Option 4.

The options can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/glylt3s.

• Fill a vacancy on the Bakersfield Planning Commission, representing Ward 6, and choose a regular and alternative member to the Keep Bakersfield Beautiful Committee.

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