Bexley charter amendments headed to November ballot

Chris Bournea
ThisWeek USA TODAY Network
City of Bexley

A series of recommended updates to Bexley’s city charter is headed to the November ballot after City Council voted 7-0 on June 8 to approve an ordinance which outlines updates. 

The proposed changes include the appointment and removal process for city officials, the composition of city boards and commissions, and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in city operations and the community at large. 

“This has been the work of a 15-member charter review commission that has suggested amendments to our council,” said Monique Lampke, chair of council’s strategic and judiciary committee. 

In early 2021, the commission completed more than a year of work to review every section of the city charter and submitted its recommendations to council. Over the past few months, a council subcommittee that consisted of Lampke, council President Lori Ann Feibel and council member Matt Klingler evaluated each of the commission’s recommendations.  

At council’s two previous readings of the ordinance, city officials discussed the proposed charter updates. At the third reading June 8, council discussed the wording of the first section of the ordinance, titled “Recognition and Intent,” which addresses the city’s efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. 

The section begins with a sentence that says the city “recognizes that institutional racism and discrimination exist and have a painful, historic legacy in our community and in this country, the effects of which continue to place the health and well-being of minority residents at risk.” 

Council member Richard Sharp introduced an amendment that would have changed the wording of the Recognition and Intent section to: “It is the intent of the city of Bexley to value and serve all its residents equally and as such, seeks to work with community groups, organizations and individuals to confront institutional racism and discrimination in order to promote diversity, equity, expression of thought, and inclusion.” 

Sharp said he’s concerned that the original language could leave the city open to legal liability. 

“There are activist organizations around the country that like to pick communities such as Bexley to be shining stars for their agenda,” Sharp said. “Because the words are not defined – ‘institutional racism’ isn’t really defined - it can be subject to whatever people feel that means to them.”  

Chelsea Avenue resident Bethany Hahn-Ambrosius said she served on the charter review commission but addressed council on her own behalf in reference to the Recognition and Intent section.  

“I promise you all of the language in section one was thoroughly researched, thoroughly debated and very intentional,” Hahn-Ambrosius said. “Recognition of our past horrific indiscretions, not just in Bexley but as a nation, is crucial in moving forward to a more equitable future.”  

Council member Jessica Saad said she appreciated Sharp encouraging council members to give serious thought to the Recognition and Intent section’s wording, but said conversations with community members led her to believe the original language should remain.  

“This work that the ... commission did to put in the Recognition and Intent, these are words that are very powerful,” Saad said. “It’s a powerful message to the history of where we’ve been and where we’re going.” 

Lampke said she sat in on some of the commission’s meetings and is confident that the members painstakingly chose the wording of the section.  

By adopting the language as the commission wrote it, “I think that we are saying in a very significant and meaningful way to our community that this council supports all residents of our community, including and especially our minority population,” Lampke said.  

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