By Andrea Cordle
On Nov. 7 residents in Grove City will vote on charter amendments.
The charter is what defines powers and procedures of Grove City government. The city charter was approved by voters in 1958 and went into law the following year. It was last amended in 1985.
In May 2016, a 13-member charter review committee was appointed by council members and the city administration to recommend changes. The committee submitted its recommendations to city council in April of 2017. City council then adopted five ordinances and submitted those to the voters for possible adoption.
“The city’s charter is our most important legal document affecting how our city government operates,” said Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage. “I truly appreciate the citizen charter review committee’s commitment to completing a comprehensive review with recommended changes.”
The most debated charter amendment is ballot issue 19, which deals with the number of wards and council members.
This charter amendment says council shall consist of seven members, instead of the current five-member board. The change says each ward shall elect one resident member for a four-year term and there would be two at-large seats with a four-year term, with one seat being elected in the opposite election of the mayor. Currently, the at-large seat is elected to a two-year term.
The council at-large seat would transition to a four-year term beginning with the 2021 election. The addition of an additional at-large seat would begin in 2023. The additional of a ward five council member would be elected in 2023 for a two-year term, then in 2025 for a four-year term.
At-large councilman and member of the charter review committee, Steve Robinette, said the committee thought the changes were necessary to give more representation to a growing community.
“We didn’t want to change the type of government, so we looked at other governments in the central Ohio area and many of them have seven-member councils,” said Robinette.
Robinette said Columbus, Reynoldsburg, Dublin and Hilliard all have seven-member councils.
The charter amendment also says the city shall be divided into five wards, instead of four.
According to Robinette, those five wards would be determined after the 2020 census.
Ballot issue 17 would make changes to resolutions and the city planning commission by putting limits on the mayor’s power.
“This pulls back the mayor’s appointments on the planning commission,” said Robinette.
The current charter says the planning commission consists of the mayor and four appointed citizens. The amendment would take the mayor out of the planning commission and it would become a five-member group of citizens appointed to four-year overlapping terms.
This amendment also says a resolution shall be introduced in writing, by a member of council and may be adopted by a majority vote of council. No waiting period, notice or publication would be required, and it would not be subject to a veto from the mayor. This only eliminates the mayor’s ability to veto a resolution, not an ordinance.
Many of the committee’s recommendations are general housekeeping measures.
“This brings us more in line with how we are doing business in the city,” said Robinette. “We brought it into the current age.”
The charter amendments would also give council the authority to meet in executive session.
Robinette said the closed-door session would allow council members to discuss confidential items like personnel matters and land deals.
“It is a meaningful tool as long as it is not abused,” said Robinette. “Council would use it judiciously.
Robinette said the volunteer charter review committee was thoughtful in its recommendations.
“We had a variety of opinions and went through the material methodically,” he said.
The charter will be reviewed every ten years.
The charter changes are only effective with voter approval. The proposed changes will be on the Election Day ballot. If approved, they would take effect following certification of election results from the Franklin County Board of Elections.
To learn more about the charter amendments, visit www.grovecityohio.gov.