Wednesday, April 05, 2000

Middletown board debate boils over

Charter change would let voters pick mayor

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — City commissioners' discussions of proposed charter changes Tuesday rapidly escalated to a heated debate, then erupted into an angry exchange and threats.

        It began in the work session while commissioners reviewed suggestions by Commissioner Jerry Banks. He proposed letting voters decide whether the charter should be changed to have a mayor and vice mayor rather than commission chair person and vice chair person; have the mayor elected directly by voters for a two-year term, rather than by commissioners; reduce the number of commissioners from seven to five, eliminating wards.

        Commission Chairman Fred Sennet objected to letting voters pick the mayor. He said commissioners should choose their leader, a job he says brings great respect and carries “a lot of authority and power.”

        But new commissioner Lau ra Williams challenged the process of choosing a commission chairperson in January, saying those involved take turns with no regard for ability. That's one reason people should decide the mayoral issue, she said.

        When new commissioner Robert Wells tried to diffuse an exchange between Mr. Sennet and Mrs. Williams, one of several tiffs during the evening, Mr. Sennet snapped, “Just butt out a minute, Bob.”

        In recent weeks, commissioners approved five of eight charter changes recommended by a charter review committee to go on the November ballot. They include increasing commissioners annual salary from $5000 to $7500.

        After lengthy discussion they decided in favor of a ballot issue to let voters decide whether the name should be mayor and vice mayor and whether there should be direct election of a mayor. But they rejected another controversial proposal to let the city go outside to hire police and fire chiefs.


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