Canal Winchester City Council begins discussion on charter-review recommendations

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Canal Winchester municipal offices

The Canal Winchester Charter Review Commission proposed that candidates for City Council and mayor live in the city for at least a year before running for office.  

Council members began discussing that as well as other recommended changes during a work session Jan. 4 to decide if any recommendations should be put before voters.  

But the recommendation on candidate-residency requirements garnered most of the attention.  

“I think you should be a little bit invested in the community (before running for office), but I don’t know how we go about it and who is verifying that (a candidate has) been a resident?” Councilwoman Jill Amos said before citing other central Ohio municipalities with residency requirements. 

Councilman Patrick Lynch suggested requiring candidates to be registered voters within the municipality for one year. 

“That basically does the same thing, so in order to be a registered voter, you have to be a resident,” he said. “The burden of proof is then on the voter registration.” 

While council Vice President Mike Coolman agreed with Lynch’s suggestion, he raised another concern. 

“What if you have people who just go get a post office box?” he said.  

Councilman Chuck Milliken said he could not support such a restriction, and Councilman Bob Clark also had concerns. 

“I don’t know how foolproof that would be,” Clark said. “If I move to Canal Winchester, and I don’t register to vote for a couple years and then I register to vote because I want to run for council, it’s only going to show that my residency was there for a short period of time. That’s a problem.” 

Every 10 years, appointed citizens are charged with reviewing, line by line, the city charter, which includes 12 articles related to City Council, the mayor, boards and commissions and other leadership functions. 

Council will discuss the recommendations during work sessions this year. 

The residency requirement is one of nine recommended changes passed unanimously by the review board; three of the recommended changes passed by overwhelming majority. 

However, the commission voted 7-4 against adding term limits for council members and unanimously rejected a term limit for the mayor. 

The commission began its review of the document that serves as the city’s constitution in late February 2020. It also unanimously recommended: 

• Requiring notice of a recall election to be posted on the city’s website 

• Permitting City Council to assign other duties to the clerk of council 

• Clarifying that City Council is not required to adopt rules every year at its first meeting 

• Providing gender-neutral language in the section on council vacancies 

• Allowing copies of the city’s ordinances to be kept at other locations in City Hall 

• Requiring ordinances and resolutions to be published on the city’s website 

• Updating references of “village” to “city" 

The three recommendations that passed by an overwhelming majority would, if approved: 

• Reduce the time between charter reviews from 10 to five years 

• Prohibit any mayoral or council candidate from “seeking, accepting, publishing or communicating an endorsement 

• Provide for the removal of the mayor or any council member “for cause” upon determining he or she violated charter Section 11.02 related to conflicts of interest, ethics and campaign financing. 

Finally, the commission voted 6-5 in favor of recommending that the clerk of council be prohibited from holding other employment or a position within the city. 

Commission members also explored other forms of local government but ultimately voted 9-2 in favor of keeping the current “strong mayor-council form of government,” according to the commission’s report to council. 

editorial@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekNews