West Side News

Columbus

Charter amendments headed to the ballot

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Columbus residents will vote on three separate issues representing 19 proposed charter amendments on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Columbus City Council made it official July 22 by adopting the recommendations of the Charter Review Commission, which spent several months reviewing the city's governing document.

Voters will face three separate ballot issues broadly addressing three charter sections: elections, administration and office holders.

Jeff Cabot, one of five commission members appointed by Mayor Michael B. Coleman and City Council President Andy Ginther, described many of the changes as a "tune-up, housekeeping and updating."

For example, one charter issue seeks to clarify which city-related entities, such as area commissions, are subject to open-meeting laws. Another provision looks to streamline ethics and prohibited acts for public officials.

One of the more controversial issues addressed by the commission regarded the establishment of wards, or districts, in the city.

Members of the commission rejected seeking ballot-approval of wards, saying it leads to gridlock and horse-trading in those districts.

Yet, supporters of a city council ward system have beseeched the city to let voters decide.

Cabot said it "wasn't our role to be provocative."

"I think our job was not to throw stuff out there and say, 'What do you think?' " he said.

"Our job was to take a hard look at the job and make changes and improvements where it was necessary."

Another charter issue seeks to make substantial changes in the way initiative and referendum petitions are submitted for approval.

The language requires the city attorney to review ballot language and gives council the authority to determine whether signatures are valid.

Commission members recommended no action on a residence requirement for city employees.

The Ohio Supreme Court had previously ruled cities could not enforce a residency requirement for municipal employees, but included an exception for emergency personnel. The Columbus charter, meanwhile, does not resolve the issue, so the commission recommended a study of that provision.

Cabot said the review was a comprehensive process, with the commission meeting nine times, two of which were public meetings.

He said he heard more than a few interesting recommendations from the public, including allowing 16-year-olds to vote.

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