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Village Council— Council dips into mayor’s role

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At its meeting Monday, June 1, Village Council held an initial discussion on potential revisions to the Village Charter, including a recommendation to replace the position of mayor with a member of Village Council. No decisions were made during the meeting, and Council plans to devote most of its meeting Monday, June 15, to continuing the Charter review.

Charter Review Committee chairperson Sheila Miller presented the committee’s recommendations to Council on Monday. As charged by Council, which completed its last comprehensive Charter review in 2007, the Charter Committee took from February to May to identify problems with the Charter and draft revisions to recommend to Council. The committee’s recommendations fell into four categories: typographical, language and clarity, conformance with current law and practice, and substantive changes, some of which are beyond the scope of the committee, that Council should discuss further.

Of the substantive changes, the recommendation to replace the mayor with an elected Council member was the most significant, and the reason Council opted to devote the next meeting to considering it. The recommendation, which Miller said initially came from Council, retains the role of mayor as the Village judicial executive (head of mayor’s court) and as official head of the Village for ceremonial and military purposes. In its research and deliberations on the subject, the Charter committee learned that a separately elected mayor in a Council-Manager form of government, as in Yellow Springs, is unusual.

“Indeed, it appears that no other Council-Manager municipality separately elects a mayor that is not a member of Council,” the committee wrote in its final report to Council last month.

In other substantive changes, the committee recommended that the composition of Village Planning Commission allow but not require one member from Miami Township or outside the Village. The report recommended that the Charter not require the Village manager to reside in town, which Village Solicitor Chris Conard stated during the meeting was no longer legally enforceable in Ohio. The group further suggested the Village increase its options for posting public announcements, in accordance with Ohio law, in the newspaper, a website or other public location.

The committee also advised that the Village change personnel “policy” to “procedure” so that the Village manager could manage employees independent of Council, whose members set policy. Patti Bates commented that she felt fine with the existing “personnel policy” under Council’s direct authority, but Conard voiced a strong opinion at the meeting that the manager should be given discretion over personnel matters.

“Great deference should be given to the manager who has to implement these [personnel] decisions,” Conard said.

Village Council charged Conard with drafting the legal language needed for most of the changes to the Charter, which are set to appear on the election ballot in November. The changes may appear as several separate ballot issues. The final Charter Revisions are due to the Greene County Board of Elections by Aug. 5.

The Charter Review Committee includes Miller, Aaron Saari, Jane Scott, Laura Curliss, Craig Mesure, Kat Walter, Council representatives Gerry Simms and Brian Housh, and advisors Conard and Assistant Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship.

In other Village Council business:

• Council opposed a resolution to hire the Regional Income Tax Authority to subpoena the 1,388 residents who are technically delinquent in tax filing for the Village of Yellow Springs. The service would have cost the Village over $11,000. Council agreed to find out more detailed information about the delinquencies. As it did last year, the Village will send informational letters to villagers identified as delinquent.

• A.J. Warrent thanked Council for the Village’s support in helping the Skate Park complete the first phase of renovation, including $40,000 worth of work. He said he intended to continue to raise funds for phase II.

“We wanted to give our kids a safe place to skate and give the environment an aesthetically pleasing feature,” he said.

• Duard Headley presented recommendations from Environmental Commission on how the Village should pursue a formal climate action plan. The group’s general plan includes assessing current conditions, identifying goals and target dates and implementing an energy efficiency plan for the Village.

Headley estimated that a plan should be doable using existing experts in town (without paid consultants), including the Resilience Network group. But the group encouraged Council to furnish $600 to join ICLEI, an international organization that provides tools to help municipalities implement sustainable development at a local level. Headley estimated the “biggest risk is getting a finished plan and not doing anything with it.”

Council requested more information about ICLEI before moving forward.

• Tim Barhorst of Springsnet reported the results of the community Fiber Forum held April 25 to gauge capacity for building a municipal broadband communication network in town. Springsnet continues to analyze the community’s needs, involve  stakeholders and local experts, and develop business plan options. The forum’s small group discussions found the biggest challenge is the expense of constructing a network, and that promoting economic  development was the most important reason to do it.

• Village Council will hold a policing policy forum at their regular meeting, Monday, July 20. Council members Marianne MacQueen, Brian Housh and Gerry Simms met with Village Manager Patti Bates, local attorney Ellis Jacobs and former police chief John Grote to help frame a discussion about the essential values the community wants in the police and potential strategies to meet them.

• Council plans to discuss at the June 15 meeting a sidewalk assessment from Village Planner John Yung, and continue the Charter review. On the agenda for July 20 is the policing work session; Aug. 6 the Village tax budget; and Aug. 17 Village finances.

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