WARREN Council explores charter government

The mayor believes a charter form of government streamlines the way government works.
WARREN -- Councilman Alford L. Novak, D-2nd, wants to place an issue on the ballot to create a commission to explore changing from a statutory to a charter form of city government.
Mayor Hank Angelo advocates a charter city, saying it would streamline government.
A statutory city is governed by Ohio Revised Code, which sets the number of council members, other elected officials and their respective duties.
Charter cities determine those and other issues by their own charter.
Becoming a charter city isn't a quick process. Voters would first have to approve formation of a charter commission, which would study the idea, then voters would have to approve the actual charter document.
"I've talked to a lot of people who don't want to maintain the status quo," Novak said.
Novak believes many of the problems Warren faces could be better addressed if the city followed a charter, rather than statutory, form of government.
Loss of tax revenue
The population has decreased over the past several years, and the loss of manufacturing jobs through plant closings has further dwindled income tax revenue.
Problems such as how to handle the city's 21 parks and funding for Packard Music Hall could be addressed in a charter.
"We're a dinosaur as far as being a statutory city," Novak said. "I think Canton is the only other city of our size that's a statutory city."
Youngstown is a charter city.
Commission members, the appointment of whom would have to be outlined in the ballot language, would develop a charter, which would appear on a subsequent ballot.
The document would determine if the city is governed by a strong mayor-weak council, a weak mayor-strong council or is city manager-based.
Angelo has said he supports a city manager form of government under which the manager is the city's CEO.
The mayor would be more of a figurehead, making proclamations and cutting ribbons, and the number of council members would be reduced from 10 to seven.
"We're always being told that a city should be run like a business," Novak said. "A business can downsize."
Changes to be made
Eliminating positions through attrition would aid downsizing. He pointed to recent state performance audits that say Warren has a high manager-to-employee ratio in some departments.
"Through a charter form of government, there can be changes made to the way people are placed into positions," he said.
Novak said he initially considered the charter government form a few years ago, but he didn't have support from enough council members to get the issue to the ballot.
"I think there's enough support to at least form the exploratory commission," Novak said. "We need to look at other options."

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