Cities do not have Democratic or Republican potholes, the old saying goes. That bit of wisdom sheds light on why many municipalities in Ohio and elsewhere hold nonpartisan elections, no political party labels, may the best woman or man win. So the recent discussion among members of the Akron City Council about going the nonpartisan route has merit. It also requires care. This would be a big change. Mayor Dan Horrigan and council members have an obligation to weigh thoroughly whether and how to go forward.

That means forming something along the lines of a blue-ribbon commission to gather information about the variations in other cities, then craft recommendations as part of building consensus. Such work may be performed in preparation for the charter review commission set to launch in January.

Bruce Kilby, the Ward 2 council member, lately has renewed his call for nonpartisan elections. He pressed the case last year amid debate about changing the city primary election from September to May. City voters rightly approved the change, necessary to ensure the Summit County Board of Elections could get complete ballots to overseas and military voters in sufficient time. Kilby, who opposed the shift, thought the board’s timing concern would be better addressed through one nonpartisan election in November.

The council rejected the idea. Now Kilby is back, and he appears to have seven of the 13 members on his side, though still short of the necessary supermajority for placing a proposed charter amendment on the ballot. His proposal would eliminate primary elections. Any candidate with 50 valid signatures could run for office.

In responding to Kilby’s idea, the mayor has a point: It has the look of “sour grapes.” Kilby originally moved ahead as opponents of a May primary fell short. Now he and three other supporters of the charter change are set to exit the council, having lost in primary battles. There is a strong argument for the most recently elected council members, five new arrivals in all, having their say.

More, there are important details, larger and smaller, to consider. Among the largest is whether to conduct primary elections or not. Many cities with nonpartisan elections hold primaries. They do so, in part, because primaries allow for a helpful winnowing process. A race with many candidates easily could lead to the winner receiving a small, even tiny, share of the vote. A primary resulting in the top two vote-getters proceeding to the general election makes more likely a candidate winning a majority and thus the backing to be more effective.

This is especially important in mayoral races, bringing a clear choice to voters, avoiding the potential difficulties a new mayor could face entering office with a fraction of the vote.

Nonpartisan elections are worth examining. They may serve to broaden the pool of candidates, beyond the current Democratic Party lock, the city benefiting from talented newcomers who otherwise may not have a route to elected office. The crucial thing is to act thoughtfully, exploring options, making an evaluation as independently as possible from the political parties, getting to what is best for Akron.

There also is a case for revisiting the four-year terms for ward council members or at least returning to staggered four-year terms for at-large members. Currently, all council members and the mayor are up for election at the same time. That is the outcome of a political maneuver engineered by former mayor Don Plusquellic. It is much better for continuity, and the stature of the council, to have at-large members running on their own, even positioned to run for mayor without having to give up their seats.