Mayor’s term limit up to Green voters
GREEN — Green Mayor Dick Norton was absent from the July 10 committee and regular meetings of Green City Council, but possibly could attend more meetings in the future as mayor than his predecessors did.
During the regular meeting, Council voted 2-5 to place a question on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot asking if the city mayor should be able to serve three consecutive four-year terms, as opposed to two consecutive four-year terms, as is currently allowed by the charter.
The potential charter change was the recommendation of the Charter Review Commission, whose members were appointed by the mayor.
According to the charter, a mayor-appointed Charter Review Commission should review the document every seven years to make improvement suggestions. The suggestions first must go before Council before the public is allowed to vote on them. Council President Joel Reed (at large) explained a charter change proposal just needs to receive two favorable votes by Council to be placed on the ballot.
Favorable votes by Council members Dave France (Ward 2) and Chris Humphrey (at-large) secured the measure’s placement on the November ballot.
“Voters should have the opportunity to weigh in on this,” Humphrey explained. “I feel comfortable allowing them to do that.”
France, a past Charter Review Commission chairman, said he also was in favor of sending the matter to voters even though he is against increasing the term limit for the position of mayor.
He said the charter has outlined term limits for elected officials since the city began two decades ago.
“I don’t agree with it,” France said. “I don’t think it is a good move. For 20 years it has worked and worked well.”
France added he believes the “residents will get it right,” however.
Councilmen Reed, Gerard Neugebauer (at-large), Jim Colopy (Ward 1), Ken Knodel (Ward 3) and John Summerville (Ward 4) all voted to strike down the charter change suggestion.
“I have respect for all members of the past and present Charter Review Commission, but I think they got this one wrong, and I won’t be supporting it,” Colopy said.
Summerville said he, too, appreciated the work of the Commission, but he believes the mayor of Green should not be allowed to serve more time in office than the president of the United States.
“I think we got the formula right, and I don’t want to change it,” he said.
Summerville said his “no” vote was his way of standing up against the matter with the voters he represents. According to the councilman, the majority of residents he spoke with are not in favor of the ballot issue.
Reed called the proposal “fundamentally unsound” because it treats the executive branch of city government different from the legislative branch, and he has never seen that done before.
The charter allows a member of Green City Council to serve two four-year consecutive terms.
Knodel said he may have understood the charter amendment suggestion better had it included increasing the terms of both mayor and members of Council.
“I am for term limits, and two terms are more than sufficient,” he said.
Charter Commission member Ted Mallo was present at the committee meeting and agreed it was a mistake not to include increasing City Council’s term limit, as well.
“I saw term limits almost destroy the state of Ohio. If I had my way, there would be no term limit for Council or the mayor,” he said.
Mallo added it may have been better to have the issue go into effect five years down the line, so people don’t vote with the current mayor in mind.
Neugebauer said that was his main concern — people would vote in favor of the change, thinking it would allow the current mayor to stay in place longer instead of thinking about how it would impact the city further down the line.
“If you like someone as mayor, 12 years is great, and if you don’t like them, 12 years is forever,” he said.
Neugebauer added that Norton is a capable leader, and in his observation, “The city looks a lot different than it did five years ago.”
Last month, Norton said, if given the opportunity, he may not decide to run for a third-term but noted there are people who would like him to do so.
He believes it would be beneficial for Green voters to give a high-performing mayor the opportunity to run for a third term, however.
If the chance for a third term is not available, then residents risk putting someone of lower skill in the position, he said last month.
Council also approved placing five other charter amendments on the November ballot.
If approved by voters, the additional charter changes proposed would:
√ require a mayor to treat the position as a full-time job;
√ create new time limits for Council to fill a Council vacancy and only allow a new Council member to be appointed between 30 and 45 days after a vacancy occurs;
√ change how Civil Service employees obtain positions, which no longer would be based on test scores alone;
√ allow 15 percent of the 7 percent of income tax revenues allocated to the city parks and recreation program to be used for special events and programming; and
√ allow Council to correct typographical errors in the charter and make corrections so it is in compliance and consistent with state law.
Additionally July 10, Council heard a presentation concerning the Massillon Road corridor by Bird Houk, the architectural design firm hired to work with the city’s Steering Committee to come up with a vision for the corridor.
Tony Slanec, director of Urban Design and Planning at Bird Houk, said a long-range plan for the corridor would be presented to Council this fall.
He said it would identify the types of development desired in the area and promote the unique identity of Green.
According to Slanec, the future Massillon corridor would be pedestrian and motorist friendly, providing plenty of open green space.
He said the corridor would be promoted “as a town center for commerce, culture and community.”
Bryan Newell, senior project manager with Bird Houk, said Council would be asked this fall to amend the existing planned development ordinance to allow the corridor to become more of a downtown area.
Aaron Domini, senior planner for the company, said the transportation component of the corridor is important, as traffic is expected to increase by 10 percent to 20 percent through the corridor in the next five years.
“This is a complex problem,” he said.
Domini added they would be making recommendations to Council soon on how best to control the traffic volume on Massillon. These suggestions include creating alternate routes to and from some of the largest development areas in the corridor.
In other business July 10, Council:
• approved a contract with Spano Brothers Construction Co. for the Solar Estates drainage project in the amount of $238,935.70. Summerville said the new storm system would allow the neighborhood to withstand a “100-year rain event.” City Engineer Paul Pickett said the project would begin in August and take about 30 days;
• approved an $83,614.20 contract with URS Corp. for architectural and engineering services for the addition of baseball fields at Greensburg and East Liberty parks;
• approved an ordinance accepting the Boettler Road right-of-way dedication plan, which involves aligning Boettler and Franks Parkway;
• approved changing the Civil Service classification for the position of administrative coordinator to “unclassified.” Human Resources Manager Jeanne Greco explained the coordinator works with the law director, and the classification change is recommended due to confidentiality issues;
• heard the second reading of an ordinance to change the zoning classification of approximately 15.96 acres of land located on the west side of South Arlington Road, north of Boettler Road, from R-1 (Single Family Residential) to R-2 (Multiple Family Residential). A public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Central Administration Building (CAB), 1755 Town Park Blvd., on the legislation;
• heard the second reading of an ordinance changing the zoning classification of about 3.05 acres of land from I-1 (General Industry) to B-1 (General Business) and approximately .06 acre of land from PD (Planned Development) to B-1 located on the east side of Massillon Road, north of Franks Parkway. A public hearing is scheduled on the proposed legislation Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. at the CAB;
• heard the second reading of an ordinance narrowing an unnamed alley abutting Berna Road. Law director Stephen Pruneski said there was a lawsuit filed related to the issue, and he created a proposed resolution that would be the best and least expensive way to resolve the matter; and
• heard from Des Werthiemer, of Concerned Citizens Against Casinos, and his group’s efforts to ban casinos from the community. He said the group collected more than 300 signatures this week from people wishing to keep all gambling establishments out of the city through a ballot initiative. Those wishing to sign the petition can do so by calling Werthiemer at 330-328-5944 or at Phabulous Phil’s Barber Shop, 810 E. Turkeyfoot Lake Road.
In other city business:
√ The city will hold an electronic waste recycling event, for Green residents only, July 14 from 9 a.m. to noon at the CAB. Visit www.cityofgreen.org for a list of acceptable items for recycling.
√ The new Green Auto Mile, a group of auto dealers located on South Arlington Road, will hold a kick-off event July 26-28 with special sales, family activities, food vendors and raffles.
√ An update on the city’s storm-water issues and improvement projects will be given during the Council study session of the regular meeting Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers.
Council will be on summer break the rest of July. Council’s next meeting is set for Aug. 15 beginning at 5 p.m. for committee meetings and continuing at 7 p.m. for the Council meeting in Council Chambers at the CAB.
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