Voters approve city charter amendments

By Joshua Keeran -

Over three decades have come and gone since the city of Urbana’s charter was adopted as the most important legal document governing the municipality. On Tuesday, voters decided several sections were due for some tweaking.

In all, voters in the city’s four wards approved six ballot measures amending the following areas of the charter: legislative procedure (passed 2,022 votes to 1,745), reading requirements (2,259 to 1,530), effective date of ordinances and resolutions (2,113 to 1,678), publication of ordinances and resolutions (2,457 to 1,358), residency requirements for city administration (2,271 to 1,545), and the appointment of alternates to city boards and commissions (2,298 to 1,480).

“The City is grateful to the voters for their support of the recommended changes to the city charter,” Director of Administration Kerry Brugger said.

The amendments were necessary, he added, due to the fact the city’s day-to-day business is handled a lot differently than it was decades ago when the most effective means of communication involved the use of a telephone, fax machine or the postal service.

“In today’s society, the expectation is for government to be responsive to the taxpayers and efficient in our operations, so it is necessary to review our processes and identify any improvements and adjust the way we conduct our business,” Brugger said. “Residents are faced with changing the way they handle their daily affairs, and it is only prudent that government be willing to look within its operations for opportunities for improvement.”

To keep up with advancements in technology that have sped up the way the world operates, the amending of the reading requirements for ordinances and resolutions and changing the effective date of these legislative matters will allow the city to meet shorter deadlines.

“The charter typically required ordinances and resolutions to have three readings and then sit for 30 days before becoming effective,” Brugger said. “Quick math identifies that it would take 10 weeks for an ordinance or resolution to take effect, and in today’s business environment, 10 weeks is not conducive to efficient operations.”

Under the newly passed amendments to sections 2.10 and 2.15 of the city charter, a 10-week wait will no longer be the norm as resolutions that don’t involve expenditure of funds will require only one reading, while only two readings will be needed for all resolutions and ordinances involving expenditures. The three-reading rule, however, will still remain in effect for ordinances seeking to amend the city’s codified ordinances and those ordinances that require actions deemed non-emergencies.

As for the 30-day wait period before a measure takes effect following passage, voters have approved the wait time to be cut to 14 days, while adding language to the charter allowing for all emergency legislation and legislation adopted on first reading to take effect immediately following the mayor’s approval.

As for legislative procedures, voters approved an amendment allowing council to enact ordinances that supersede state statutory provisions with respect to acquisition and disposition of property upon a majority affirmative vote.

“The city has numerous parcels of land that have been acquired over the years that have no real value to the city but have to be maintained,” Brugger said. “This amendment states that if these parcels are under full control of the city (no state or federal attachment) and are under the threshold of the Ohio Revised Code requirement for competitive bidding, they could be transferred to another party, with council approval, without going through a bid process.”

Additional amendments

In terms of publication requirements, voters approved amendments to sections 2.17 and 2.19 of the city charter.

Under the changes, the clerk of council will no longer be required to post separate legal advertisements in the newspaper following the passage of a legislative measure. Instead, the clerk will only be required to submit to the newspaper a list legislation adopted by council once every 90 days, while also posting the list on the city’s web site and in the municipal building.

Additionally, rather than publishing codification and recodification of ordinances and resolutions in the newspaper, the city will only be required to publish these measures digitally.

As for the ballot issue pertaining to sections 4.01, 4.02 and 4.03 of the charter, voters have eliminated language requiring the city’s directors – law, finance and administration – to reside within city limits. Due to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling back in 2008, the residency requirement was no longer enforceable despite still being included in the charter.

In regard to section 4.06 of the charter, voters approved adding a new subsection allowing the mayor to appoint at least one alternate member to any board or commission with less than five regular voting members to serve in the event of any temporary absences or to cover any conflicts of interest that may arise. For boards or commissions with five or more voting members, the mayor will appoint two alternates.

By Joshua Keeran

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.