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Ohio Politics

Cities seek charter changes

By admin Published: October 15, 2010

By Marilyn Miller
Beacon Journal staff writer

Voters in three Summit County cities will be asked to vote Nov. 2 on whether to reshape the rules that govern their communities.

Barberton, Fairlawn and Norton voters will be asked to decide charter amendments.

Norton residents will decide whether to increase the number of signatures needed on recall petitions.

Norton City Council is seeking a higher number of signatures when there are attempts to recall the mayor or an at-large council member. If approved, a recall would take 25 percent of the registered voters citywide instead of 25 percent of the number of voters that cast ballots for the particular seat being recalled.

''Recalls can be costly. The last one cost the city of Norton $15,000,'' said Law Director Pete Kostoff. ''Yes, people have a right to recall, but instead of recalls being used as a personal vendetta tool by a minority of the population, council wants to make sure the number of signatures is a true representative of the number of people who want the recall.''

Kostoff said the law shouldn't treat people differently who voted in the primary compared to those who may have only voted in the general election.

Another Norton charter request would specify the instances when the council could go into executive session. Six reasons are given.

''They are not self-created, they are provisions already in the Ohio Revised Code,'' Kostoff said.

The charter would follow state law and have the same wording.

Another big issue facing Norton voters would reduce the council from seven to five members.

In January 2012, two at-large seats will be eliminated, leaving four ward seats and one at-large position.

The measure was passed by voters in November 2007, but won't take effect until next year after several legal battles over the timetable of the reduction.

At-large Councilman Scott Pelot, whose position is to be eliminated, said he wants to let residents decide if it's what they really want.

Council members said a smaller council would affect representation, limiting the council to ward representation and one at-large position and could hold up city business if there are not enough council members in attendance at a meeting to vote on a measure.

Fairlawn

Fairlawn residents will decide two charter amendments that seek to create alternate positions on two panels so the alternate could fill in for an absent member.

Law Director Ed Riegler said it does not create a sixth position on either panel.

One charter amendment seeks to create an alternate member for the city's Planning Commission, which now consists of five regular members. Each member is appointed to a five-year term.

The alternate would fill in when a regular member is unable to attend and gives the alternate full voting rights only at those meetings when there is an absence.

A second charter amendment seeks to create an alternate member for the Board of Zoning and Building Appeals, which also consists of five regular members. The alternate member would participate in any regular or special meeting and have full voting rights that come before the board.

Barberton

In Barberton, residents will consider three charter amendments.

One of the amendments asks voters to delete a phrase in the charter prohibiting the mayor, finance director and law director from serving in the military more than 30 days while in office.

A second charter amendment would require referendums and recall initiatives to have the same wording used in state laws on the subject.

The third measure would ensure conflict of interest rules are rewritten to mirror state law.

Barberton Law Director Lisa Okolish-Miller said the way the charter reads now bears some confusion when it refers to direct and indirect conflict of interest.

''The way indirect conflict is written, anyone can argue that every resident has an indirect interest in just about everything that has to do with the city,'' Okolish-Miller said. ''Rather than keep that wording in the charter, the Charter Review Commission suggested the charter be rewritten to follow the same laws everyone in the state is obligated to follow.''


Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or mmiller@thebeaconjournal.com.
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