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Green voters facing charter change proposals at polls

10/4/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

GREEN — A citywide vote in Green soon will determine whether the current and any future mayor could run for a third term and if gambling establishments could be operated in the city.

Eight proposed charter amendments are on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot, with two of the issues specifically being highlighted by city officials and community members.

The first proposal, Issue No. 12, would increase mayoral term limits from two to three consecutive four-year terms.

The Charter Review Commission, a five-member board appointed by Mayor Dick Norton and accepted by Council, recommended the increase in terms, along with six additional revisions to the charter.

According to commission Chairperson Susan Allen, a great deal of research was done on the topic. After reviewing cities with the same form of government as Green, it seemed fitting for the mayor’s term limits to be increased, she explained.

Norton has said the proposed charter amendment was the idea of the commission.

Councilman Jim Colopy (Ward 1) pointed out the recommendation came from a commission made up of Norton’s appointees, all from the same political party.

“I do not support amending the charter to extend the mayor’s term limits,” he vocalized.

Colopy explained he disagrees with increasing the term limits for the mayor while leaving Council’s term limits in place.

Council members are permitted by the charter to serve two four-year consecutive terms.

Dennis Maneval, a Green resident who spoke out against the proposed charter amendment recently, said his research revealed there are no municipalities that have the mayor’s term limits longer than the term limits for Council.

Green Council President Joel Reed (at large) said he also would not be supporting the charter amendment to extend the mayor’s term in office.

“It is bad policy and not in the best interest of the community to change it,” he said.

Reed believes the current charter is sufficient when it comes to the mayoral term limits.

Norton, however, has said it would be beneficial for Green voters to give a high-performing mayor the opportunity to run for a third term. It does not mean he or she would be re-elected, but it means he or she could run again, the mayor has said. If the chance for a third term is not available, then residents risk putting someone of lower skill in the position, Norton has explained. He has said the Green mayor is the city’s chief executive officer, who creates growth and attracts development, with the support of Council, which works part time.

If the charter change is approved in November, Norton, who is in the first year of his second term, said he may not even choose to seek a third term.

In July, Council voted 2-5 to place the question on the ballot to ask if the city mayor should be able to serve three consecutive four-year terms. Six of seven Council members would have had to vote “no” to keep any of the commission’s recommendations off the ballot, city officials said.

Council approved placing the six additional charter change proposals by the commission on the ballot, as well. These amendments would:

√ require a mayor to treat the position as a full-time job (Issue No. 13). The position currently pays about $85,000 a year;

√ 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 (Issue No. 14);

√ change how civil service employees obtain positions, which no longer would be based on test scores alone (Issue No. 15);

√ 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 (Issue No. 16); and

√ allow Council to correct typographical errors in the charter and make corrections so it is in compliance and consistent with state law (Issue No. 17).

The last charter amendment voters will see on the ballot was put on through a petition. More than 1,100 signatures were gathered in support of the proposed charter amendment, Issue No. 18, that states all casino gaming, horse racing, scheme of chance, game of chance and gambling devices would not be allowed or operated in the city, except for nonprofit charitable purposes, if approved by voters. According to the Summit County Board of Elections (BOE), 901 legitimate signatures were needed for the placement of the proposed charter change on the ballot.

Resident Des Wertheimer, who heads up a group of residents against a “racino” and other gambling facilities in Green, was active in collecting the signatures.

He said after rumors circulated in the spring that a racino could be constructed near the Akron-Canton Airport (CAK), a number of residents wanted to make sure all gambling facilities stayed out of the city.

The mayor confirmed in the spring that Rock Ohio Caesars, controllers of the Thistledown Racetrack in North Randall and owners of Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, expressed interest last fall in relocating Thistledown to 80 acres of land owned by the CAK on Greensburg Road.

In late April, Norton said the city had not received a written proposal for the racino, but Wertheimer began to circulate his petition regardless.

The mayor has not said he supports gambling establishments, but said city administration and Council should consider each proposal received to see what value it could add to the city.

“I am well aware of the sensitivity the whole state of Ohio has towards gambling,” Norton said in April. “We have more people in the city than just those who are opposed to gambling, however.”

As a resident of Green and member of Council, Reed said he supports the measure to keep gambling facilities out of the city.

Valerie Wolford, city communications director, said Norton wants Green voters to know the charter changes are up for them to decide. He will not encourage the public to vote for or against any of the measures, she explained.

“He wants you to look at the issues and learn about them before you go to the polls,” Wolford said.

According to Norton, a great deal of time was spent by the professionals on the commission reviewing the current charter and coming up with recommendations for the residents of Green to approve. The process is very involved, he has said. Every seven years the charter is reviewed by a commission and changes are suggested.

Wolford said residents can find a complete list and description of the proposed charter changes at www.cityofgreen.org/proposed-charter-changes-2012, as well additional Summit County ballot information.

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