Whitehall News

Proposed charter amendments

Staggered election cycle is only ballot issue -- thus far

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Even though the Whitehall Charter Review Commission recommended that five issues be put before voters on the November ballot, only one received City Council's approval last week.

The only proposal that is expected to go before voters Nov. 5 is a request to stagger the election cycle of the auditor to coincide with council members rather than with other administrators.

However, council was scheduled to meet Aug. 6 (after ThisWeek's press time) and could have revised its list of amendments.

The filing deadline with the Franklin County Board of Elections was Aug. 7, 90 days prior to Election Day.

Council met in special session July 30, when members were expected to send to the ballot an amendment request to repeal term limits. Council voted 4-2 to reject the measure this year, though.

Council member Van Gregg was absent.

Facing a time crunch, council members had decided to suspend the three-reading rule and adopt emergency legislation to create the ballot issues, which required a two-thirds majority of elected council members, not just of those present, for the measure to pass.

Only three of the commission's recommendations made it to a vote July 30, and only the staggered-elections amendment passed.

City Council President Jim Graham praised the commission for its efforts during the review process.

Of the commission's five recommendations, council members voted on three; one was held back but possibly could appear before voters later; and one was rejected altogether.

Even though council held a special meeting July 30 to address the issues swiftly, Graham said, members had one more opportunity Aug. 6 to change tweak the final list.

During the group's special session, council members Robert Bailey and Chris Rodriguez both voted for a proposed ballot issue that would suspend term limits for all elected officials, not just council members. Karen Conison, Wes Kantor, Leslie LaCorte and Leo Knoblauch all dissented.

The commission's original proposal recommended that term limits be suspended for council members only, but not for the mayor and other elected administrators.

City attorney Mike Shannon had advised council members that suspending term limits for some but not others could disturb the balance of power between the legislative and the administrative branches of government.

Council agreed and asked that Shannon reword the proposed issue to reflect a suspension of all term limits.

Despite the changes, the issue still will not be on the ballot in November.

All council members voted against a proposed amendment that would have the parks and recreation director report to the mayor rather than to the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Council decided to postpone a proposal to replace the elected city attorney with an appointed law director. That issue could appear on a future ballot, though, Graham said.

Council rejected the commission's recommendation to verify the number of residents in each of the city's four wards on a regular basis in an effort to amend boundaries.

According to Graham, the issue was rejected because of its complexity and difficulty to implement.

Go to ThisWeekNEWS.com for updates to this story.

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