When Hilliard City Council returns from its annual summer recess later this month, dealing with proposed changes to the city charter will be among the group's top priorities.

When Hilliard City Council returns from its annual summer recess later this month, dealing with proposed changes to the city charter will be among the group's top priorities.

City council president Brett Sciotto said that doesn't mean the issues will be rushed onto the ballot. In fact, he said it could be November 2009 before voters decide if changes to the charter are warranted.

Sciotto said the charter review process is about to enter the third of four phases. The first phase involved the Charter Review Commission's recommendations to city council and the second phase was council's review of those recommendations.

"We will finish the second phase by early fall," Sciotto said. "When we come back Aug. 25 we will probably have two or three more meetings to complete our review, then we will enter phase three, the informational campaign."

That campaign would be multi-faceted, including public meetings, mailings, brochures and the development of an informational Internet Web site, Sciotto said.
Sciotto said the informational campaign is a critical part of the process.

"We will go out, along with members of the Charter Review Commission and the administration and talk to the public about then recommendations that we are making and explain why we are proposing them and get their feedback in preparation for putting it on the ballot."

Sciotto said the issues would most likely appear on the November 2009 ballot.

"These are issues that will affect everybody in Hilliard," he said. "I think historically you have a higher partisan turnout for a primary election but what we are really looking for is the general sense of our entire citizenry and you get more of that in a general election. I think you get a better cross section of the public if you do it in a general election."

During council's final pre-recess meeting, law director Pam DeDent said the city may be able to use public funds for the informational campaign as long as the city is only presenting information and not taking a position on how residents should vote.

"She indicated to me recently that she thought we could (use public funds) but she wanted to do a little more research on it," Sciotto said. "I don't think there has been a definitive ruling, but it sounds to me like it is possible."

Sciotto said he thinks it is critical that the city fully inform residents about any proposed changes to the city charter.

"If you just put it up there on the ballot, as some have pushed for, and you don't spend time talking with the public about it, they are at least going to be wary of it, if not against it," he said. "Change, you have to explain. You can't just throw it up there.