Westerville: City charter’s updates left to voters

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

Westerville voters will consider five amendments to the city's charter in the Nov. 3 general election.

“It’s important that residents understand this is an ask to approve the work their neighbors have done in conducting a thorough review of the charter to bring it up to date, and it’s only done every 10 years,” said David Collinsworth, Westerville city manager.

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Charter-review commission chairman Larry Jenkins, a former council member, said the proposed amendments are mostly updates to recognize modern technologies in communication methods or to ensure the charter matches current state law or processes.

The proposed amendments simply would help the city government operate more effectively and efficiently, Collinsworth said.

The amendments will appear as one ballot initiative. They are as follows:

• Updating the meeting and general posting/communication requirements to reflect more modern forms of communication, allowing for electronic notices and removal of antiquated “posting” requirements.

“This basically offers the city and the public access to more modern techniques, like digital or online postings of meetings,” Collinsworth said. “The current charter provisions were established before the advent of the internet and social media — when newspapers were the principal means of communication about community or civic affairs. The current provisions require a physical posting of written notices.”

• Clarify that certain types of legislative action, generally those of a temporary, informal or ceremonial action (including motions), are effective immediately. The charter specifies that except for certain identified types, ordinances and resolutions would become effective 30 days after approval.

Collinsworth said this would eliminate any possible confusion as to when certain legislative actions become effective after approval, such as resolutions in support of state legislation or a certain event or motions to purchase equipment.

• Move the start date of council members’ terms to Jan. 1 to better match standard government operation and residents’ expectations. Council members’ current terms begin Dec. 1 after the election and end Nov. 30 at the end of their four-year term.

Collinsworth said the start date for council members' terms can be tricky when awaiting certification from the elections boards on voting results, particularly if an election is close and a recount is required. By pushing the start date to Jan. 1, he said, this time crunch would be eliminated.

• Adjust recall procedures to follow state statute.

Recent changes in state law have made the recall-petition format more straightforward and understandable for the public, according to Collinsworth. He said following that procedure would prove less cumbersome than the city having its own procedure in the charter.

• Allow Westerville personnel-review board members to also serve on other boards.

“Personnel-review board meets so infrequently that this provides those volunteers a chance to get broader experience with the time they are donating to public service,” Collinsworth said.

Jenkins led a five-member commission that met for over a dozen hours in open public meetings, in addition to two joint public meetings with council, this year and last year to review the charter in depth, with a focus on fine-tuning the document.  

Christa Dickey, Westerville’s community-affairs director, said every 10 years, a commission is appointed to review Westerville’s “constitution.”

The last time voters approved charter amendments was in 2010.

For more information, go to westerville.org/charter.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla