By Jeff Gallatin
City officials will be taking additional steps to inform voters about the proposed charter amendments scheduled to go on the November ballot.
During a special City Council meeting July 26, members of the Charter Review Commission reviewed the quartet of proposals with council prior to that panel’s formally placing them on the ballot. During discussion both council and charter commission members said they would take steps to make sure there is adequate information available to the general public.
City Council President Paul Koomar said the city often helps put together or sponsors an informational pamphlet about any proposed ballot issue.
“Usually, the Bay Village chapter of the League of Woman Voters or some other similar organization will put together a pamphlet or some type of information and make sure that it goes to different parts of the community,” he said.
Koomar said council would be glad to work with any organization that undertakes a similar effort this year. He noted that the wording on the formal election ballot is often rather limited in scope and does not always include a lot of information about the ballot proposals.
Former City Councilman Don Zwilling, who was chairman of the commission, said the group will put out a formal press release outlining the different proposals.
“I’ve already told the group that we will be having another meeting to go over this and putting together information for the public,” he said.
Former City Council President Brian Cruse, who also served on the panel, noted that because of the increased use of absentee ballots by many voters, they should get the information out quickly as possible.
Commission member Matt Clever, who works at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, said current estimates are that between 25 and 40 percent of the votes cast will come from absentee ballots.
While reviewing the proposed charter amendments, Zwilling noted that they give the city additional financial options during tough financial times.
Among the proposed charter amendments are two that would essentially take the police and fire chiefs out of the civil service system.
Those proposals have drawn fire from the police and fire chiefs, as well as the unions for both departments. They have expressed strong reservations about the proposals, saying they would subject both positions to political pressures by depriving the posts of civil service protection. However, Mayor Debbie Sutherland and her administration, which is supporting the proposals, say it is a necessary move that will help make it easier for the city to join a regional fire district or authority with the cities of Fairview Park, Rocky River and Westlake.
Also going on the ballot is a proposal that would help allow the finance and law directors to work or share their positions and responsibility with other cities.
The final proposal makes less punitive any action involving a city official by taking them out of any discussion involving a group or organization in which they may have a financial interest. Members expressed strong concern that the current charter language would require someone to resign even if that person took himself or herself out of any discussion or vote.