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Disputed charter change
Disputed charter change not done yet
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
After being rejected by Chardon City Council, Councilwoman Mary Bramstedt and members of the city's charter review committee have taken to the streets to get a proposed charter amendment on the November ballot.
The group began circulating petitions in the city July 18 to bring the question of whether City Council should have readings of ordinances and resolutions on three different days, unless they are waived by at least two-thirds of council.
Although the charter calls for three separate readings, only four members are required to waive the requirement. The proposed charter amendment would require five votes to waive the readings.
City Council voted 4-3 on July 10 to reject the recommendation of the charter review committee for the separate readings as a possible ballot issue in November.
Mrs. Bramstedt, who voted for the issue to go to the ballot, said circulators were able to obtain more than 200 signatures on the petitions in about a week.
Arch Kimbrew, director of the Geauga County Board of Elections, said 124 valid signatures, or 10 percent of the electorate participating in the last municipal election, are required for a valid petition.
The petitions will be handed over to the city, which holds them for 10 days for public comment. The petitions then go to the county board of elections with a resolution from council for inclusion on the November ballot, unless the city challenges the petitions, Mr. Kimbrew said.
Mrs. Bramstedt said she and former members of the charter review committee formed a political action committee known as Citizens for Responsive Government. Members are Mrs. Bramstedt, Paula J. Noyes, Robert L. Ryan, Molly J. Nikkila and Kenneth M. Ovark. Each of them had recommended the "separate reading" amendment in a 5-4 vote of the committee, although two members were absent the day of the vote.
Council members Jefferey Campbell Jr. and Deborah Reiter, who voted to send the measure to the ballot, also participated in the petition drive.
Mrs. Bramstedt said it is the people, not council, who should decide the issue. "It simply allows democracy to work," she said.
She said there were other proposed amendments she had voted against as a member of the charter review committee, but, when those same issues went before council, she cast her vote in favor of putting them on the ballot to "honor the other members" who felt the issue worthy of the ballot.
Mrs. Bramstedt said the close vote on the committee over the issue was not intentional. She said that, with 11 members, it was difficult to schedule meetings that all could attend, and she routinely rescheduled meetings to accommodate their schedules. She said the committee had a limited time table to work with, and the vote came up when it did.
Although some said the measure is needed to give the public more time to comment on issues, the lone issue raised was the Roger Loecy rezoning of industrial land to residential. That issue went before council in February 2007 and was voted on in May 2007.
Mrs. Bramstedt said she does not believe the public would become any more involved than it is now because of the proposed charter amendment. However, she said, it does have merit for council members.
She said Kenneth Miller, who has served the community for more than 20 years as a councilman and now as chairman of the planning commission, recently said he appreciated having two added weeks to study another rezoning proposal, which was by local businessman Rollin Cooke. Mrs. Bramstedt said someone with his vast experience still needed additional time to properly consider an issue.
She said council could benefit from having the added time to consider items before it. Although it now has the power to delay an issue, the structure of the council does not always permit it, she said.
She said the minority of council may feel an issue should be delayed until more study is done, but it has been overruled by the majority, which hurries the issue through.
Despite Councilman Robert Cromwell's contention that the amendment has the potential to bring government to a "grinding halt," Mrs. Bramstedt said that is not likely to occur, because all members want what is good for the city, and the three-reading rule will only be used for certain issue. That is evident by the unanimous passage of the vast majority of items "99.9 percent of the time," she said.
"We are not going to waste anyone's time with issues that aren't extremely important," Mrs. Bramstedt said.
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