Akron council members didn’t agree on putting an amendment on the November ballot and disagreed again Monday on a resolution supporting the proposed charter change.
Council voted 10-3 for the resolution, which urges voters to support Issue 3. The charter amendment would boost ward council members’ terms from two years to four, eventually putting all of the city’s elected officials on the same election cycle, and would limit the raises of council members and the mayor.
Voting against the amendment were council members Bruce Kilby, who filed a lawsuit last week challenging the amendment and its wording; Mike Williams, who ran against the mayor in the last election and thinks the amendment is directed at him; and Linda Omobien. The three also voted against putting the amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“I don’t know if Issue 3 will be on the ballot,” Kilby said. “I hope it will not be.”
Williams thinks the two parts of the amendment — on council terms and council and mayoral raises — should have been separate issues.
Kilby objects to the wording of the amendment, which he considers “electioneering,” and thinks it doesn’t fully explain what the change would do.
Council President Marco Sommerville, who proposed the amendment with Mayor Don Plusquellic, said he wanted council to pass a resolution so that signs could be put on city property saying council supports the amendment. He said the city’s law department, Summit County elections board and Secretary of State’s Office all approved the wording of the amendment.
The amendment would result in all City Council members and the mayor eventually being elected at the same time, which would eliminate the opportunity for at-large council members to run for mayor — as Williams did last year — from a protected council seat. It also would limit the amount of raises council members and the mayor receive to the average awarded that year in the private sector, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
The ballot language reads, “Shall sections 28.2 and 53 of the charter of the city of Akron be amended to eliminate the cost of an extra election, to elect all council members to a four-year term at the same election and to limit raises for members of council and the mayor?”
Plusquellic and Sommerville say the amendment would eliminate off-year elections, saving $150,000 to $200,000 for every election that was no longer needed.
Kilby sued last week, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to declare the proposed charter language invalid or to order new wording to describe what the amendment will do. The case is an expedited election matter, meaning it will be on an accelerated schedule for both sides to file briefs and responses because of the upcoming election and early voting.
Andrae Long, an Akron resident who spoke during council’s public comment period Monday, said he filed paperwork with the Summit elections board forming a committee to oppose the amendment, which he called an “incumbent-protection package.” He said the committee is called Citizen Action PAC.
Ernie Tarle, a former Akron councilman, said the amendment is “government trying to hide from people.”
Plusquellic responded by pointing to past amendments with numerous parts to them, including a campaign finance ordinance that Kilby proposed.
Kilby complained that Plusquellic was out of order and violating council rules that prohibit personal attacks. Sommerville asked Kilby to not interrupt Plusquellic and said he would be given the chance to respond.
Kilby said there have been previous amendments that may have been worded inappropriately, but they went unchallenged.
“We are challenging this,” he said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith.