What's a charter government? It could appear on ballot for Warren voters
Does Warren need a new form of government? A citizens group called Warren Deserves Better says it's time for the city to write it's own destiny and not continue with an outdated form of government.
Tuesday, January 17th 2023, 11:10 PM EST
Does Warren need a new form of government?
A citizens group called Warren Deserves Better says it's time for the city to write its own destiny and not continue with an outdated form of government.
The group Warren Deserves Better Charter Government Initiative says a charter form of government will allow Warren residents to start with a blank page and create a document that spells out duties and powers by creating Warren's own constitution or charter-like Youngstown has, and most other cities in Ohio have.
Members say statutory cities like Warren don't allow rules to be tapered on how a city should operate.
Supporters say it creates government defined at the local, not state level.
"We're being governed by Columbus. We want to be governed by the community. We want the voices of the residents heard and this is the best way to do it. Allow the residents to write the Charter for the city," Coordinator of Warren Deserves Better, Tina Milner said.
The group adds Warren's statutory form of government is outdated and limits the city council's powers to be efficient.
Councilman Ken Macpherson believes a Charter form of government would give the council more control to monitor contracts, reign in costs, keep a better eye on taxpayer dollars, and create qualifications for elected office.
"They could be everything from having qualifications for the auditor to have a CPA, cost savings by combining a treasurer and auditor into one position, and go to something more modern like a Fiscal Officer, and then have qualification requirements."
A fifteen-member Charter Commission elected by voters would look at Warren's laws and see if changes are needed, then write new proposed laws. The laws can not violate state or federal laws.
"If the Commission makes recommendations and the voters don't like them they can simply vote no. It's that simple. That's why it's the most common form of government," Councilman Andrew Herman said.
Copies of the proposed Charter would be sent to all registered voters in Warren, then voters would have their say in an election.
At the third reading, the council is expected to vote as a matter of procedure to forward the citizen's initiative to the Board of Elections to put on the May ballot. If they don't do as they are legally required they will end up spending tax dollars fighting a battle Ohio state statutes say opponents can't win. That's because the vote is procedural after citizens pass an initiative and get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.
Some council members say they will vote to forward the issue, but they have been protesting the change by not putting the issue forth in an Emergency or one reading.
Supporters of a Charter form of government in Warren say some council members are trying to hijack the process and emphasize the delay gives citizens less time to circulate petitions to be elected to the committee for helping review and draft proposed changes.
Some critics have compared a charter with Socialism however proponents say this is democracy in it's purest form and emphasize the effort has been driven by citizens.
"A Charter form of government is the norm, statutory is not, it's outdated. In Ohio, we can give them case after case of cities that switched to a Charter form of government. Municipalities switched as early as 1914 when this was first introduced into the Constitution," said Milner.