Council OKs four charter changes for ballot

By David Skolnick


Without a single comment by its members during Monday’s meeting, city council voted to place four of the 17 charter amendments proposed by a citizens committee on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Council voted 7-0 in support of proposals to create a conflict-of-interest policy, and to change the starting and ending dates of daylight saving time, which the city already follows.

Also, council agreed to one aspect of a two-part proposal from the charter-review committee to eliminate term limits for the mayor, but not to create the position of vice mayor.

The fourth item for voters to consider in November would be a language change on redistricting the city’s seven wards so they’d have similar populations. Council’s proposed charter amendment would permit redistricting after a “reasonable population change.”

The charter-review committee — consisting of 11 members selected by city council and Mayor Charles Sammarone — wanted redistricting maps to be finalized no later than 90 days after each decennial federal census.

The charter currently gives council the option of redistricting after each census. Redistricting hasn’t been done in more than 30 years.

Aug. 8 is the deadline to get charter amendments on the November ballot.

Council members had decided what proposals they supported at a July 16 meeting, and officially voted Monday in favor of them.

After the meeting, council members said other proposals from the charter-review committee could end up on the 2013 primary or general ballot, such as making it easier for recall votes.

Others could be adopted by council at a later date without going to voters for approval, including proposals to create and consolidate certain departments, and to change the starting time of council meetings.

“I’m not satisfied in total because we need to work on language for recall,” said Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd. “But we’ll discuss that issue” later, he said.

“I’m not going to put something on [the ballot] just to put something on,” said Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th.

“The work’s not done,” said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th. “We want to make changes that help” improve the charter.

Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, is the only member to support placing nearly all of the 17 proposals on the ballot. He wanted 15 of them to be in front of voters in November, “even though I disagreed with some of them.”

No one from the charter-review committee attended Monday’s council meeting.

Reached to comment by The Vindicator, Jerome Williams, chairman of the charter-review committee, said, “I don’t understand” why council didn’t vote to put all 17 proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Among the committee’s proposal rejected by council are reducing their salaries, holding nonpartisan elections, eliminating council president as an elected position and having a charter-review committee meet annually.

“It’s truly disappointing,” said Phil Kidd, a committee member. “What citizens will be willing to go through what we did and at the end have council not permit voters to decide? It’s damaging to the process.”

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