Voters to decide end of term limits for council members in November
By DAVID SKOLNICK
City council will consider legislation Wednesday to place charter amendments on the November ballot to eliminate term limits for its members and for council president.
Also, an anti-fracking charter amendment that’s been rejected by city voters seven times likely will be back again in November.
Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, who would be term-limited next year, said the proposal would be a balance of power as voters in 2012 approved a charter amendment to eliminate term limits for the mayor. That came at the recommendation of a charter-review commission that didn’t suggest a similar amendment for council members.
City council will vote on two pieces of legislation – one to eliminate term limits for council members and the other for council president. They now can serve a maximum of two consecutive elected four-year terms and then must sit out an intervening term before seeking election.
“This will allow voters to decide if they still want to keep term limits,” Ray said. “We shouldn’t lose someone who’s effective because they’ve been there for two consecutive terms. How is that good for the city?
Though Council President DeMaine Kitchen said it “doesn’t make sense to have term limits for council and not for mayor,” he added: “It doesn’t look good to me to do it now. This is something that should have been brought up years ago. Now it looks self-serving because there are people term limited” next year. “I don’t think it is [self-serving], but I understand why people would think it.”
Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th, said she favors eliminating term limits for council members. Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th, said there should be consistency with term limits among the mayor, council president and council members.
In addition to Ray, Councilmen T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd, and Nate Pinkard, D-3rd, can’t currently run for re-election next year because of the term-limits law.
Under this proposal, if approved, they could run for re-election.
Council will also vote to put the “Youngstown Drinking Water Protection Bill of Rights” on the ballot again. The proposal would ban fracking in the city and forbid city government to use water and wastewater funds for economic development projects.
The committee that backs the proposal collected 2,376 signatures and needs 1,270 to be valid to qualify for the ballot. A Mahoning County Board of Elections clerk said the committee has more than enough valid signatures to get on the Nov. 6 ballot.
As to why supporters keeps putting the issue in front of voters, Susie Beiersdorfer, an anti-fracking committee member, said: “Change is made slowly. We’ll keep pushing for this. There are a lot of people with water issues.”
An identical charter-amendment proposal was rejected March 13 by the board of elections. But the Ohio Supreme Court ruled April 24 the board exceeded its authority by rejecting the initiative and ordered it on the ballot.
Elections board Chairman Mark Munroe said: “The Ohio Supreme Court ordered that identical language be approved to the May primary ballot, so I presume it would be appropriate for it to go back to voters in November.”