Monday, December 4, 2023

Move to amend

Coming to a ballot near you

     There’s a General Election just around the corner. Mark your calendars for November 8th, make your plans to scamper down to your local polling place and vote!

     While there, you’ll notice some familiar names and ne’er-do-wells on the ballot. From stalwart experienced pols like former Toledo Mayor Paula HH and current state rep Lisa Sobecki to the ever embarrassing Killer Dia, many of the names will be readily recognizable.

City Charter Proposed Amendments

     If you live in T-Town, there will also be a ballot issue to amend the city charter. While the ballot wording is not yet finalized, this will likely be a lengthy and incomprehensible mish mash of verbiage you will prefer to skip over. But never fear! Here’s everything you need to know about this omnibus initiative.

     First, the proposed amendments went through a lengthy vetting process. The city charter creates a standing charter review committee. This committee meets periodically to propose changes and review proposals from other parties. If approved, proposals must then be approved by City Council for placement on the ballot. They must then be approved by voters to become finalized.

     The current proposals went through this process.  They were reviewed by the charter committee and sent to Council.  Council held several public hearings before approving them for November’s ballot. The Ohio Secretary of State must now review proposed ballot language and assign a ballot issue number.

     What are the proposed changes, you ask? Oh, they are several and varied, ranging from the mundane to the fundamental. As proposed, they are stuffed together into one large package. If kept together, the ballot language is likely to be the lengthy mish mash mentioned above. The Secretary of State could mandate that they be separated into separate issues, which would mean there could be over a dozen of them. Which would still be a long muddled mish mash.

     Who has time to parse through all this? Never fear, dear reader, for here is a synopsis of the proposed changes.       

     Lowering the thresholds for citizen-led initiatives.  One proposal would update and clarify the process for amending the charter, including changing the petition threshold for citizen amendments from ten percent of electors to ten percent of the votes cast in the previous municipal election.  Two other proposals lower the petition thresholds for citizen initiatives and referendums on ordinances from twelve percent of votes cast in the previous mayoral election to seven percent. All these changes would seem to make it easier for citizens to get proposals on the ballot.

     Clarifying personnel issues for employees of Council and the Mayor’s office. One proposal makes it clear that employees on the twenty-first and twenty-second floors are unclassified staff without civil service protection. Another places personnel decisions on the twenty-first floor squarely with Council. Which has very little to do with your life unless you work on the twenty-first or twenty-second floors of One Guv Center.

     Printed copies of Mayor’s budget and city residency for city employees.  Speaking of things with no effect on your life, an additional proposal eliminates the need to routinely print five hundred hard copies of the Mayor’s proposed annual budget and instead provide print copies on request. It’s twenty twenty two. Make the copies mobile friendly and save the ink. Another amendment eliminates the requirement that city employees reside in the city. This mandate was found unconstitutional and unenforceable decades ago. ‘Nuff said.

     Whew! See what we mean? A muddled mish mash. And that’s only a bit over half of the current proposals! There’s also raising Carty’s golden shower threshold (you recall the lack of need for council approval for expenditures under $10K?), paving unimproved streets, revising term limits and more rowdy fun. These amendments are likely to be much more contentious.  Intrigued? So are we.

     But alas, we are out of space for now. Stay tuned to this column for part two of the proposed amendments, coming next issue, and an online voter’s guide to allow you to study this more closely at by mid-October.

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