Village Council— Mayor revamp off table
- Published: June 25, 2015
Village Council will not propose changes to the mayor’s role in the upcoming charter revision, members said at this week’s Council work session.
Instead, in November local voters will approve or deny changes to the charter that largely correct or clarify its language and bring it into conformity with current Ohio law, according to Council member Brian Housh.
“The Charter Review Committee was not charged with looking for controversial issues or changes but to bring things in line with Ohio law and make sure they are clear,” Housh said. “And I think that’s what we did.”
A nine-member committee worked for four months earlier this year to draft changes to the charter at Council’s request. The Village Charter, adopted in 1950, is the Village’s “constitution,” Housh explained.
A few changes that Council members called “substantive” will be included in the charter revision ballot issue. If the changes are passed, Council members would be seated in January rather than immediately after an election to allow for a potential recount in the case of a close vote. In addition, elected officials would be barred from serving as Village Manager for two years following their term, ordinances and other public notices could be posted solely online, budget ordinances would take effect immediately rather than after a 10-day waiting period and no longer would Planning Commission be required to seat one member who is a Miami Township resident; instead, no more than one Planning Commission member may reside outside of the Village.
In another change made to conform to current Ohio law, the Charter would not require Village Managers to reside in the village, a provision that is no longer enforceable, according to Village Manager Patti Bates. Instead, the charter would require the manager to live in Greene County or an adjacent county, while their contract with the Village could specify they live in town.
“By law you cannot require anyone to live in a specific place,” Bates explained. “That said, if it’s written into a contract, that’s a different legal instrument. It was in my contract.”
Council will finalize the ballot language next month, ahead of an Aug. 5 deadline to submit the proposed charter changes to the Greene County Board of Elections.
At its meeting earlier this month, the Charter Review Committee report included as an “additional topic for discussion” a section that discussed replacing the separately-elected mayor with the president of Council, who would preside over the Mayor’s Court as well as act as the Village’s ceremonial head.
According to Council members this week, the committee did not recommend a mayoral change, and Council members did not consider it for this year’s charter revisions.
“I didn’t see a compelling reason to change the office of the mayor,” Housh said. “ In terms of the role of the mayor … it is clear and explained well in the charter.”
Council President Karen Wintrow said there was some discussion about clarifying the mayor’s role, which is solely judicial in Yellow Springs while in other communities is also legislative, but that this year changing the mayor section of the charter “has been completely taken out of consideration.”
“There is no desire to get rid of the mayor,” Wintrow said.
Mayor Dave Foubert spoke at the meeting, telling Council members that mayors function “in different communities in different ways,” including some who operate similarly to Yellow Springs’ mayor. For instance, at quarterly trainings he has attended in Ohio for those presiding over local mayor’s courts, Foubert said just 20 percent of attendees are hired magistrates, while the rest are mayors, clerks or police chiefs.
“There are a lot of communities in the state of Ohio that do it the way we do it,” Foubert said.
Villagers Carole Cobbs and Chrissy Cruz told Council members that Council should not look only outside the village for ways to structure our government, including making changes to the office of mayor.
“I rather resent us always running off to other villages and looking at what they are doing,” Cobbs said. “We’ve always had our Yellow Springs way of doing things.”
Originally passed in 1950 by a margin of 548–507, the Village Charter laid out a new form of government for the Village known as the council-manager form of government. Prior to the charter, Yellow Springs’ form of government was defined by the state and included a six-member council and an elected mayor. The executive functions then held by Council committees, the mayor and superintendent of utilities were transferred to the Village manager under the new charter, according to a News article from the period. At the same time, Council was changed to five members and a separately-elected mayor was given new duties as the head of the local court.
Only two previous revisions to the charter were proposed and passed, in 1990 by precinct margins ranging from 62 to 87 percent and in 2007 by a vote of 985–222.
This year’s Charter Review Committee included Council members Housh and Gerry Simms, the Rev. Aaron Saari, Jane Scott, Laura Curliss, Sheila Miller, Craig Mesure and Kat Walter.
In other Council discussions:
• The third phase of the downtown streetscape project was postponed this week after Village Manager Bates rejected a bid that was significantly over budget. The sidewalks along Xenia Avenue from Corry Street to Short Street were slated to be replaced this year in a project that was to start July 20.
The bid of $135,020 was more than the $65,000 budgeted for the project in 2015. Bates said she will re-scope the project, recommend Council allocate funds for it during the 2016 budget process and bid the project in the fall for an estimated construction start date in Spring 2016.
• Assistant Village Manger John Yung reported on ways the Village and residents can work together to repair, replace and construct new sidewalks throughout the village. In 2011, Council decided the Village should take sole responsibility for sidewalk maintenance, but the funds allocated annually have not been enough to meet the demands of sidewalk maintenance, according to Yung at a previous Council meeting.
Yung reported on various models for sharing responsibility for sidewalk maintenance. For example, the Village could pool requests from residents needing sidewalk repairs or replacements, estimate a per square-foot cost, bid the project and agree to pay a portion of the costs for the homeowner. Yung also reported that residents would not have to comply with ADA requirements if they completed sidewalk repairs on their own and discussed alternative construction materials such as pervious concrete, pervious pavers and porous asphalt, which would cost an estimated 20 percent more than traditional concrete plus engineering costs.
Council members Wintrow and Housh suggested taking immediate action, including grinding down problematic sidewalks and offering a voluntary repair program until Yung can prepare a sidewalk inventory and master plan. The topic was discussion only.