Charter Commission Minutes
May 1, 2017
Charter Commission Meeting called to order at 5pm.
Members present: Daniel Crawford, Jill Goddard, Chase Ghiloni, Rhonda Loomis
Harry Yocum replacement for Jim Holman ~ unable to attend meeting
· 13.01 Partisan vs non-partisan elections
o Discussion held concerning the pros and cons of changing the election rules for the City of Newark. Ms. Goddard stated that the City should consider having a Study Group that can dig and present facts on non-partisan elections to the Charter Commission, perhaps for the next Charter group. Mr. Ghiloni had asked for “transition” information from other communities that had gone through this. Ms. Goddard found cities that had gone from party to non-partisan however it had been quite a while ago and transitional information was not readily available. Mr. Crawford had not found that information yet. Ms. Loomis showed a Columbus City Council commercial for non-partisan elections and it was a plea to vote Democrat and paid for by the Democrat Party and again she feels there is no such thing as non-partisan or removing the money from a party. Mr. Ghiloni found neither Ms. Loomis’ or Mr. Crawford’s argument satisfied his questions on this issue and needs more time to prepare to vote. The consensus remains, will it confuse the voters? Mr. Crawford read a prepared statement as his final plea to the committee and is presented here in its entirety:
We live in an era of hyper-partisanship, and there is little indication that the gridlock we’ve seen will subside. This evening we have before us a grand opportunity to set things right as the perennial conflict between the parties has no business meddling with the affairs of a body responsible for guaranteeing paved streets, staffed safety forces, and regular park maintenance. Why must we permit the self-perpetuating two party system to lock out all other voices which don’t subscribe to this false political dichotomy? Is this representative democracy or is it the perversion thereof?
Under the present partisan makeup, a first time candidate has to wait for an open seat if they have any hope at pursuing an elective position successfully. This is because primary elections are typically frowned upon and “towing the party line” is expected of anyone entering their first foray into the arena. If you dare defy the status quo you will be met with fierce opposition from the leadership of your respective party and if you are a candidate of modest means you might as well call it a day while you’re ahead if you are a rebel of this caliber. Is it healthy for us to have a system where questioning the established order is rendered next to impossible?
Why is it okay for a candidate to be grilled by party leadership for publicly advocating a position which is contrary to others on a partisan ticket? Would it not be better for our representative democracy for each candidate to make an independent appeal to their prospective constituency separate from an association with any party? Would it not be better for the people if their officeholders and candidates didn’t take any marching orders from a political party? Are candidates somehow incapable of formulating political positions without the guidance of a party? Are the people unable to discern for themselves which candidate is best without seeing a political identifier?
Better yet, it must be asked whether or not a system which fosters division among imaginary lines is sustainable when the ability to work together for the common good is hindered by fealty to affiliation and the pursuit of electoral victory for one side over the other. It is my belief that a nonpartisan election design will do more to facilitate an atmosphere of cooperation and can potentially serve to liberate our candidates, officeholders and the people from the clutches of adversarial politics. Upon the founding of this great nation, our Founding Fathers conceived a union wherein compromise was customary in order to adequately represent the will of the people. One of the Constitution’s chief authors, James Madison wrote the following in Federalist #10: “…the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens”.
Before closing my plea for action let me first offer the words of our first president, George Washington whom offered the following caveat: “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
Newark is but one city in a sea of communities in this great land of ours. While we alone cannot end the scourge of partisanship and its crippling effects on our political system or our political discourse, we can take a stand to be part of the solution and a leader for continued change. If there is a collectively beneficial reason why we ought to maintain the grip of the two-party system irrespective of those with no association in either camp, then let us hear it now and dispense with considering this proposal forevermore. However, if you – like me – feel that this design has failed us and will continue to fail our children then the time to act on adopting an all-inclusive nonpartisan structure is now. Thank you.
The Charter Commission is going to wait for input from Mr. Yocum before voting to change the way the City votes or to leave the Charter as is.
· 9.01 Cabinet members appointed by the Mayor not required to live in the City of Newark in order to serve. (ORC 735.01)
The Commission members held a brief discussion with Mr. Ghiloni expressing that if a candidate is highly qualified and out of the perimeters of the Charter and ORC it could limit an appointment of a highly qualified individual. The ORC still allows for a six month time frame to move, or council can waive this rule. Held for vote until Mr. Yocum could be caught up and express his thoughts.
· Section 4.15 A & B Publication of Ordinances & Resolutions in the newspaper. Clerk making and retaining a certificate as to times and places legislation published as required in subsection A.
Council and Planning Commission Clerk, Autumn Klein attended to discuss the reasoning behind the request and to provide clarification. She gave examples of other cities, municipalities that have gone from newspaper advertisement to website for both resolutions and ordinances, as well as public hearings. Pataskala puts Public Hearings on their website. Heath uses their website as well as a smaller newspaper, Heath News, at a lesser cost to publish public hearings and to publicize ordinances and resolutions. The cost for Newark to place public hearings, resolutions and ordinances is about $16K to $20K per year and Ms. Klein is looking for ways to save money and bring the city into the electronic age. Law Director Sassen stated that he still believes in the old way of doing it because it protects the city from someone stating they did not know of a hearing especially, but changes in law and if questioned the answer would be that the city has done the legal ads for decades and it would cover any question of whether the citizenry was advised. At minimum public hearings should stay in the newspaper. Ms. Klein stated that would help costs. Mr. Sassen explained that ordinances and resolutions would need to be prominent on the website and not difficult to find. Ms. Loomis stated that maybe the website could be redesigned now and let citizens get used to it before changing the way the city does the publications now. Commission hopes to be ready to vote next meeting pending Mr. Yocum’s thoughts.
· Section 4.12 Zoning Ordinances Section A – remove the language that states the Planning Commission can’t conduct a public hearing earlier than 15 days after Council has referred as application establishing, amending, revising, changing or repealing zoning classifications, districts, uses or regulations to the commission.
Ms. Klein explained the timeframe discrepancies between the policy of the zoning commission and the charter. She has been following the zoning policy and recently had to reschedule a hearing to ensure she followed the Charter’s timeframe of 15 days after council has referred it to the planning commission. This is request is to bring the two timeframes together. This change is supported by the Engineer and the Law Director found no issue with this change. Commission will vote pending Mr. Yocum’s input.
· Article XI ~ appointments of various boards and commissions
After discussion of the three types of appointments: Mayor, City, Council and regulatory bylaws of an entity, the Commission has decided that this issue would be better discussed and passed by the Council’s Rules Committee. It could then be moved to full council for a vote.
· Article XIV ~ Initiatives, specifically the subject of council taking up “some” initiatives” on behalf of citizen request
Per the Law Director: this is not permissible per constitutional provisions
· 4.14 ~ The Charter and council “shall” pass….need the Law Director to advise where it states council cannot turn down charter amendments passed by the commission
The Commission had discussed the possibility of allowing city council members to vote down sending charter changes to with either a super majority (technically 7.5 members) which could be 7 or 8 council members to stop a commission’s charter changes from going to the voters, or approve same said changes. The reasoning was to not have a rogue commission sending costly ballot ideas to the election cycle. If each ward member appointed a charter commission member vs changing the charter to allow a super majority or majority vote to stop or pass the changes, that you are infusing the election process into it. Voters have the final say in charter changes presented. More discussion to follow.
Additional comments in regards to the charter:
Mr. Ghiloni questioned the cap on the bidding procedures outlined in Article X, section 10.02 BIDDING
The threshold amount is $30K and it appeared that the last update to this amount was in 1996. Law Director Sassen advised it had been changed to the $30K approximately five years ago, brought forth by the Utilities Superintendent. Council keeps a better handle on expenditures with this threshold, with some discussion on stopping departments from splitting bids to go under the threshold.
Tim Waldren stated he liked term limits and shorter terms for council members. Two years or possibly three to serve.
Carol Floyd, 7th Ward Councilwoman, commented on her support of non-partisan elections similar to school board elections.
Mike Mangus, 4th Ward Councilman, commented on his support of non-partisan elections having switched parties from R to D and finding difficulty getting signatures.
President Ellington thanked everyone and states the charter conversations have been refreshing.
Meeting Schedule is as follows:
May 15, 2017 @ 5 pm, Council Chambers
May 22, 2017 @ 5 pm, Council Chambers
Meeting adjourned at 6:10pm