Thursday’s city council meeting

Here are my notes from Thursday night’s meeting:

Charter Amendment (Charter Review Commission) – Yes, it’s my last month on council. No, I’m not mailing it in. I’m proposing an amendment that will hopefully allow the city to avoid a major dispute in 2020 and beyond.

For those of you who are new to city government, a city’s charter is akin to its constitution. The Charter Review Commission is appointed by the mayor every 5 years, to study ways to improve Stow’s Charter. Unfortunately, there is confusion as to whether City Council is required to put all of Charter Review’s proposals before the voters–or whether Charter Review Commission is merely making recommendations. We have had 3 different law directors provide 3 different answers. If the next law director believes it is mandatory for council to submit the proposals to the people, and council refuses, then we have a potential lawsuit on our hands. I think everyone should agree: Clarification is necessary.

My amendment makes it clear that Council is not required to place Charter Review Commission’s proposals on the ballot. My reason is three-fold: (1) Charter Review has given us some bad language in the past. One proposal gave the voters no opportunity to maintain the status quo — clearly illegal. Council’s judgment is needed to protect the process. (2) Charter Review likes to re-litigate issues that the voters have already decided over and over again. For instance, the length of city council terms (2 years versus 4 years), and term limits. Council should be able to object to a proposal as being “asked and answered.” (3) Charter Review often comes with pre-determined objectives, set by the mayor who appointed the members. The mayor should not be able to so easily circumvent the traditional process of amending the charter (i.e., two-thirds of council).

Charter Amendment (Mayor Succession Plan)

Matt Riehl also rolled out a charter amendment — pertaining to the process of replacing a mayor. We had a dilemma when Mayor Kline resigned two years ago. The council president (Riehl) and council vice president (me) could not take the job. Thankfully, Jim Costello was retired and able to step into the role seamlessly.

Riehl’s proposal would allow council to choose a resident beyond the council’s own members. In all likelihood, council would not choose someone with no government experience, but rather a member of the departing mayor’s cabinet or a retired elected official.

Greenspace rezoning

My plan to rezone 314 acres in Stow to “conservation” received its first reading. The land in question is: (1) 85 acres in western Stow, owned by the city, (2) the golf course parcels of Roses Run Country Club (146 acres), and (3) the Marsh Road reclamation plant (83 acres). This follows our successful rezoning in October of Fox Den Golf Course and its 137 acres. I think this is good for our school overcrowding, enjoyment of existing residences, enjoyment of nature, and mitigation of storm-water problems.

Next meeting

Council will meet on December 30 — potentially to pass these charter amendments on to the March 17 primary ballot.