Committee Presents Recommendations For Changing Columbus City Council Election Process
Columbus City Council last night held the first public hearing on the Columbus Charter Review Committee's recommendations to change how council members are elected. The committee members appointed by council and the mayor last summer were empaneled before voters in August rejected a ballot issue that would have expanded council to 13 seats, including 10 district seats and three at-large members. The committee held 12 public hearings, in which 35 citizens attended, while 68 citizens submitted comments. The committee recommends a hybrid system that expands the seven-member council to nine members elected from districts by all of the voters. The committee also recommends the process for appointing members to fill a vacancy be extended from 30 to 45 days, with a new member not being appointed on the same night as a public hearing on that person's candidacy. But the commission left it up to council to decide if that candidate would be able to run for election, or serve as a placeholder. Appointees in the past have been able to run, giving them the advantage of incumbency. Committee chair Stefanie Coe talked about why.
Only three people made comments last night, including former Republican State Representative Bill Schuck, who said council should have eleven or thirteen members, five to seven of whom should be elected solely by members of their districts.
Will Petrik, a council candidate representing the Yes We Can coalition, called the proposal a step in the right direction. The committee failed address campaign finance reform issues because that was not part of its mission, but Petrik says it should be addressed.
Chip Moore, president of the union representing more than 25 hundred city workers, criticized the process as a waste of time and money.
But council member Shannon Hardin said the process was a good idea.
Council president Zach Klein says before the plan goes to the ballot, his concerns about how district boundaries would be drawn and when elections would be held need to be addressed. He'd like to see it placed on the November ballot, which would require a council vote before the end of July. Klein did not commit council to holding that vote, so it's not clear when voters will get to decide.