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Norton voters facing Council ballot issue again

7/22/2010 - West Side Leader
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By Kally Mavromatis

Measure to change makeup of Council back on ballot

NORTON — Come November, Norton voters will be given the opportunity to either reaffirm or overturn their decision to modify the composition of Norton City Council.

At a special meeting July 15, Council agreed to place three proposed charter amendments on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot.

Because Councilwoman Brenda Hlas (at large) was excused from Council’s regular meeting July 12, the vote was delayed to July 15 to allow all to vote and give the public more time to weigh in.

“All these ordinances are just to put it on the ballot, nothing more,” said Councilman Scott Pelot (at large).

The most controversial of the three is the proposed charter amendment to re-amend the city charter and restore the number of Council members to seven.

During the November 2008 General Election, voters passed by 58 percent of the vote Issue No. 26, a charter amendment that would have used the results of the 2007 General Election to reduce the number of Council representatives.

The legislation would have removed two of the three at-large members from Council as of Jan. 1, 2009. The at-large member who received the highest number of votes in the 2007 election would have kept his or her seat.

The at-large members affected — Hlas, Pelot and Mike Zita — were elected to a four-year term in 2007, with their terms expiring in 2011.

However, Law Director Peter Kostoff challenged the legality of the provision that would have removed the at-large representatives before the end of their terms. It was later ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, leaving the three at-large Council members to serve out the length of their terms.

Council voted 5-2 to place the proposed charter amendment on the ballot, with Councilmen Bill Mowery (Ward 3) and Ken Braman (Ward 4) casting the dissenting votes.

“I think at the last election the voters spoke loudly,” Mowery said.

Mowery also noted the smaller Council had not been given a chance. Should the initiative fail once again, Mowery said the affected Council members should resign.

The smaller Council, however, shortchanges its residents, said Councilman Don Nicolard (Ward 2). With residents voting on three at-large members and their ward Council representative, they are represented by approximately 50 percent of Council, he said. Voting for only two members drops their representation to 40 percent, said Nicolard.

Also voted on were two other charter amendments to go before the public, including a proposed charter amendment to increase the number of signatures to 25 percent of registered voters as opposed to a percentage of residents to validate recall petitions.

The measure also passed by a vote of 5-1, with Mowery voting against it.

“I’ve always been against recall anything,” he said. However, he called on Council to be more responsive to citizens, eliminating the need for recalls.

Council also passed by a 5-1 vote, with Mowery voting against, a proposed charter amendment to permit Council to hold executive sessions only as outlined by Ohio law.

“I think the public has heard the same request before; they weren’t buying it then and they aren’t buying it now,” Mowery said of the legislation.

Before the meeting, City Administrator Rick Ryland announced the city would be swearing in three recently promoted police officers.

Kostoff performed the ceremony, congratulating Andrew Howell on his promotion to captain and Adam Papp and Vince Shoemaker on their promotions to lieutenant.

Due to Council’s summer break, the next regular Council meeting is set for Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, in the Administration Building, 4060 Columbia Woods Drive.

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