Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Staggered terms among changes


Revised charter could also raise council pay

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — City Council members voted 4-3 Monday to include staggered terms in a charter amendment that voters will decide in the Nov. 7 general election.

        Council members Kathy Becker, Richard Holzberger, Sharon Hughes and Tom Nye voted for staggered terms. Mayor Adolf Olivas and Councilmen Don Ryan and George McNally op posed.

        Voters also will decide:

        • Whether council members should be allowed to run for other elected positions.

        • Whether to directly elect the mayor.

        • Whether council should be elected to terms of four years, up from two.

        Under the current system, council members are all elected at the same time, are not allowed to run for other elected office, and the top vote-getter becomes mayor.

        A separate amendment calls for a council salary to increase to $5,000 and the mayor's salary to $15,000. The mayor's and council members' salaries would increase annually to reflect the Consumer Price Index, the most closely watched inflation gauge. Currently, the mayor earns $10,200. Council members make $300 per year — one of the lowest rates for a city of Hamilton's size in the nation.

        The amendment calls for the pay raise to become effective January 2001, but council members said this is a mistake. Instead, they said the raise should become effective in January 2002. All other changes would take effect January 2001.

        “We have completely redone the charter, with the exception of civil service,” said Carla Fiehrer, chairwoman of the charter review committee.

        Vice Mayor Tom Nye said proposed changes are needed, but “I would've considered taking it a little further than it does. I think that the duties of the mayor could be more clearly defined ... and expanded.”

        The proposed pay increase is considered the riskier amendment because it has failed at least 10 times. Council's salary has remained the same since the charter took effect in 1928.

        “It's not city council coming forward saying we need more money. It's citizens coming forward saying the positions deserve the money,” Mr. Nye said.

        The charter amendments were citizen-driven, Mr. Nye said.

        “I really think it was time to revise the charter since it hadn't been since 1928,” said Jeannie Garretson, who chaired the business community subcommittee. “A lot of it was to clean it up somewhat and bring it into today's world.”

        Council has two more special meetings to vote on the charter amendments. They are:

        • 7:30 a.m. today on the seventh floor, One Renaissance Center, 345 High St.

        • 6 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers.

        Officials plan to publicize proposed revisions in a local newspaper, at the Lane Public Library, at One Renaissance Center, and in fire stations and schools.

       



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