CLARIFICATION OF EFFORT
FROM EDMOND MACK
Edmond J. Mack
Today at 8:20 AM
I read your blog with great interest this morning. I can confirm that efforts are indeed underway to explore whether the issue of Charter Government can be presented to Canton voters.
At this time, the analysis does not include the potential for the adoption of a modified statutory City plan pursuant to R.C. 705.01. This is because such a plan could, and likely would, involve dramatic change to the structure of our government. In my view, the Citizens of Canton want efficient modifications, not a structural makeover.
With a Charter, efficient, subtle changes can easily be accomplished, and the structure of our government can be left intact. However, an important consideration in presenting the Charter issue to the voting public of the City of Canton are the number of signatures required to do so.
OH Const. Art. XVIII, § 8 provides in part, "'The legislative authority of any city or village may by a two-thirds vote of its members, and upon petition of ten per centum of the electors shall forthwith, provide by ordinance for the submission to the electors, of the question, “Shall a commission be chosen to frame a charter.’” There are over 43,474 registered voters in the City of Canton. At first blush, this language would require 4,375 signatures. Gathering this many signatures would be an impossible task.
However, recent additional legal research confirms that when interpreting the above Constitutional provision, OH Const. Art. XVIII, § 14 must also be applied. This Section reads, “[t]he percentage of electors required to sign any petition provided for herein shall be based upon the total vote cast at the last preceding general municipal election.” See, State ex rel. Concerned Citizens for more Professional Govt. v. Zanesville City Council, 70 Ohio St.3d 455, 457, 639 N.E.2d 421 (1994); State ex rel. Huebner v. W. Jefferson Village Council, 75 Ohio St.3d 381, 384, 662 N.E.2d 339 (1995).
Therefore, like the adoption of a modified statutory city plan pursuant to R.C. 705.01, only 752 (7611 x 10%) valid signatures will be required to place the issue of Charter Government before the voters. This is a very obtainable number.
However, there are still many legal, practical, and political details that must be worked out before such an important endeavor is undertaken. If this going to be happen, it must be done right. These issues are currently being addressed, and I would expect a conclusion to be reached on this matter in the coming days.
Edmond J. Mack
At Monday night's Canton City Council meeting seven (7) anti-democratic councilpersons (at least on the issue of charter government as provided for in Article 18 of the Ohio Constitution) voted to deny Cantonians the right to vote on whether or not they wanted wanted to form a "charter review commission" which would have the duty to present to Canton's voters within a year Canton charter government plan for an "up or down" vote.
Surprisingly to the SCPR among the "no" votes were Councilmen Frank Morris (D, Ward 9; the majority leader of council) and Kevin Fisher (D, Ward 5).
Both present themselves as "men of the people."
In terms of qualitative councilpersons, the SCPR rates both of them very high.
As far as The Report is concerned, the rest (Babcock, Dougherty, Griffin, Smith and West) Canton city government can do without.
The SCPR learned yesterday that a concrete movement is underway exploring the feasibility of proceeding under Ohio's Revised Code Section 705.01 (see Edmond Mack's 705.01 "not at this time" in his contribution to the discussion in this blog as posted above) to "go around the seven" and allow Cantonian voters to decide for themselves as to whether or not they wish to govern themselves (to the extent there is no conflict with State of Ohio law) or be governed by the Ohio General Assembly.
A general assembly, mind you, which has taken millions of dollars from Canton in local government funding.
The beauty of the 705.01 and/or Mack's contemplated procedure, if the SCPR's math skills are correctly applied, is that it will only take 762 eligible registered voters, more or less, to bypass council and put a "change of government" measure before Canton's voters.
705.01 Petition for submission of question of organizing municipal corporation under a specific plan.
Whenever electors of any municipal corporation, equal in number to ten per cent of those who voted at the last regular municipal election, file a petition with the board of elections of the county in which such municipal corporation is situated, asking that the question of organizing the municipal corporation under any one of the plans of government provided in sections 705.41 to 705.86 of the Revised Code, be submitted to the electors thereof, such board shall at once certify that fact to the legislative authority of the municipal corporation and the legislative authority shall, within thirty days, provide for submitting such question at a special election, to be held not less than ninety days after the filing of such petition. (emphasis added)
To the SCPR, going charter government is a "no brainer," even if like Stark County city Canal Fulton did a number of years ago when its voters to make it "a charter government city," the identical statutory form of government in place gets transplanted into being the charter form of government.
With the seven Canton councilpersons, the rub is that there is no guarantee that a charter review commission would follow Canal Fulton's lead.
And that is - as the SCPR wrote on Tuesday - where fear kicked in.
The Report thinks the seven were afraid that a charter review commission might write them out of Canton city government in some shape or form and they had to sit idly by powerless to do anything about it inasmuch as Ohio law prohibits councilpersons from being members of a charter review commission.
None of the seven admitted to fear of personal political consequences, but the SCPR is convinced that the "heart and soul" of their objection was, in one way or another, based on ensuring that personal stakes they perceived themselves to have in the present form of Canton government - goes untouched.
Monday night, Councilman Edmond Mack (D, Ward 8), the prime mover behind the charter government ordinance, indicated after he lost on a 7 to 5 vote that he would go back to the drawing board and, perhaps, with a change in the composition of council, try again after the November, 2015 elections (reference: his video statement that Canton needs to change some councilpersons) to get his ordinance through council.
Also, immediately after Monday's meeting, Canton civic activist C. David Morgan suggested to the SCPR that he and presumably the likes of former judges Harry Klide, Richard Reinbold; former councilman Robert Capestrain and others who spoke out in support of charter government during Public Speaks were considering taking the question of the structure of future Canton city government directly to the people of Canton and thereby bypass the seven anti-democratics.
Yesterday Ohio Revised Code Sections 705.01 was brought to the attention of Councilman Mack (who, undoubtedly, was already aware of the statute) by a Stark County civic activist from Massillon.
Later in the day, The Report learned that Mack ally and Councilman at Large Bill Smuckler was calling around to various Stark County political figures (the SCPR presumes "various" but has verified one such call) to get input on the advisability of "going around the seven" route and, secondly, whether to put such an initiative on the ballot in May, 2015 or November, 2015.
The one adviser that the SCPR knows about told Smuckler that May would be the better timing. And The Report agrees.
The issue is a hot one now and May, 2015 is less than 10 months away.
Adding another six months (i.e. waiting to the November, 2015 election) might work to advantage of those opposing a change in the structure of government for Canton.
There might be another opportunity in a May election in addition to a vote on the change of Canton's form of government.
Perhaps a civic group could cobble together a number of candidates to oppose in the May Democratic primary (the de facto election for a new council in heavily Democratic Canton) councilpersons Babcock, Dougherty, Griffin, Smith and West.
The Report left Fisher and Morris off the list which is not to say they should not have opponents; they should. However, unless the opposition has clearly superior credentials, The Report sees them as having done an overall good job on council and therefore deserving of reelection.
A change in the five singled out above hopefully would - should Cantonians not approve the 705.01 plan presented - provides an opportunity for Councilman Mack to renew his charter government initiative, which the SCPR thinrks is preferable to the 705.01 alternative path.
The risk, of course, is that Cantonians will adopt a 705.01. If they do, so be it. Canton needs to change the structure of doing the peoples' business and the object of change will be to rid the city of a structure that is not serving citizens' needs as presently constituted.
But proceeding with the the ORC 705.01 way might be enough leverage to get the seven defiant council members to come to their senses and approve a charter government review commission vote in May, 2014.
As much as a charter government approach is an unknown, the SCPR thinks that the 705.01 was poses a much greater threat to personal political well being than does the Constitutional provided means of change.
Mayor Healy (reported to have been unenthusiastically supportive of the charter approach) might find himself without a job - more so - under the statutory way of change than as a casualty of a charter review commission.
And in the view of the SCPR that might not be a bad thing for Canton.
Under a plan submitted under a ORC 705.01 procedure, the form of Canton government could range over the following options:
- A 5 member governing commissioner (705.41 through 705.48),
- A city manager plan with nine (9) elected council members (705.51 through 705.60),
- A federal plan in which the only "elected" officials would be a mayor and city council members ranging from five to fifteen members (705.71 through 705.86)
A charter government review commission is definitely the best path for Canton to new governmental beginnings but an ORC 705.01 or "other alternative" approach seems to provide an excellent opportunity as a way around the seven anti-democratics!