Thursday, April 13, 2000

Direct vote for mayor has setback

Middletown short on council support for charter change

BY Janet C. Wetzel
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — After hot debate recently, city commissioners voted to prepare legislation to place a proposed charter change on the November ballot to allow voters to directly elect a mayor.

        Now it appears that 4-3 vote might not mean much.

        Commissioners have since learned that a “super majority” — in this case, five votes — is needed to place that charter change on the ballot.

        Some commissioners said Wednesday that might be the death of the proposal. If approved by voters, it would end the longstanding practice of commissioners choosing their leader. Others say it's possible another commissioner might reconsider.

        The debate may be renewed at Tuesday's meeting, but there's no charter change legislation on the agenda.

        The charter review committee recommended eight changes. Commissioners have informally agreed on five — including to rename the commission a council and change the title of chairman and vice chairman to mayor and vice mayor. They rejected two.

        Commissioner Jerry Banks argued that residents should decide if they want to elect a mayor. He said some charter review committee members noted a lack of leadership on the commission because the chairman's role is primarily ceremonial. They said that position could be strengthened by having the mayor elected and the role re- defined.

        But “the three who voted against this are not about to let the people vote on this,” Mr. Banks said. “And I guess that's the way the system is designed. Unless you have the votes, why waste time preparing the legislation?”

        Commission Chairman Fred Sennet, who along with Robert “Sonny” Hill and Earl Smith voted against the proposal, had indicated he expected no vote change. But on Wednesday he said persuasive arguments can change minds.

        “I'm open to a good argument,” Mr. Sennet said. “I'm not closed-minded on any issue. I'm not trying to thwart the will of the public. But I want to know the goal for having an elected mayor,” and the differences in the duties.


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