Hilliard City Council members are expected to continue discussion Feb. 27 concerning a charter-review commission.

The specific number of its members and how they will be appointed remains to be determined but City Council members say they know what issues the commission should consider.

Those include whether Hilliard should employ a city-manager form of government, whether City Council should be a mix of at-large and ward representatives, whether term limits should be reinstituted and whether the city should step away from partisan elections.

All City Council members appear to agree such issues should be considered but they had different views on them.

Councilman Joe Erb said he does not support the policy of term limits nor should council members be elected by wards.

In 2009, voters approved a charter amendment that lifted term limits.

All seven members of Hilliard City Council are elected at large but some central Ohio municipalities, such as Dublin and Whitehall, elect four ward representatives and three at-large members.

Council President Nathan Painter said the commission also must consider whether to keep a strong-mayor form of government or recommend a city manager, a position under the purview of City Council similar to the relationship between a superintendent and school board.

"Do we want a city-manager or a mayor form of government? I've seen both work and I've seen both not work," Painter said.

That decision, Painter said, is crucial because a recommendation to change to a city-manager form of government would require amendments to other sections of the city charter that would not otherwise be necessary if the commission recommends keeping a strong mayor.

Concerning a city manager, Erb said, he believes "it is best for the city of Hilliard moving forward," citing its success is neighboring cities, such as Dublin and Upper Arlington.

Councilman Bill Uttley said he was inclined to favor a city-manager form of government but wants to "keep an open mind."

Uttley also said term limits "do not benefit anyone."

Painter said the commission also must look at whether Hilliard should continue its practice of partisan elections.

Hilliard is one of the few central Ohio municipalities to elect partisan council members.

"I don't think (being a Republican or Democrat) matters so much as this level (and can prevent us) from getting the right people in place," Painter said.

Councilman Les Carrier said he would need to consider whether he would support a proposal to abolish partisan elections but favors a city-manager form of government.

"We need to have a city manager," he said.

Carrier is a founding member of Keep Hilliard Beautiful, an organization formed to support Issue 9, a charter amendment voters approved last year that prohibited emergency rezonings by City Council and the use of tax-increment-financing districts for developments with residential components.

Keep Hilliard Beautiful, whose members also include school board member and Republican City Council candidate Andy Teater, has announced its support of a city manager.

Carrier said he would not support a proposal to elect council members by ward.

"We are one community," Carrier said.

However, before these issues are considered, the charter-review commission must be created. That process began at a committee-of-the-whole meeting Feb. 13.

The committee is expected to meet before the full meeting of City Council at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Hilliard Municipal Building, 3800 Municipal Way.

Councilman Tom Baker was part of the last 11-member charter-review commission, which handed its recommendations to City Council on Dec. 10, 2007, after about an 18-month study of the charter.

Among the recommended amendments that voters approved in November 2009 was a requirement that a charter-review commission be convened after a period of no greater than 10 years, thus requiring a commission to be in place by Dec. 10.

Painter said he considered it unlikely that a commission would be in place until after City Council's summer recess later this year.

The commission will determine what amendments, if any, to recommend to City Council.

In turn, City Council will determine what amendments will be placed on the ballot for the electorate to consider.

Amendments to a pair of resolutions establishing the charter and its operating rules are probable, Painter said.

"I'm not married to any language or procedure," he said.

Council Vice President Kelly McGivern said she is "excited we are moving along" and looks forward to exploring all aspects of the city charter.

The initial proposal calls for a 13-member commission, seven of whom would be appointed by City Council and six by the mayor but it appears that could change.

"It needs to be a council initiative," Baker said.

"Council (members) should be ones interviewing and selecting the commission members, not the mayor," Erb said.

"The mayor should be involved in the process," Carrier said, but not appoint six members.

"I am pleasantly surprised that other members of council agree," he said.

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