Charter issues on ballot

If you live in Steubenville, you are going to be faced with making many decisions when you go to the polls on Nov. 4.

You’ll be helping to decide, for example, whether Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, should continue to represent our area in Congress or whether its time to make a change and vote in his Democratic challenger, Jennifer Garrison, also of Marietta.

Among the other choices you will have to make is whether Democratic incumbent state Rep. Jack Cera of Bellaire has earned another term in Columbus or if it’s time for a fresh face in Republican Ron Ferguson of Wintersville.

And, oh yes, Republican Gov. John Kasich, who is seeking a second term, will be challenged by Democrat Ed FitzGerald.

In addition to those choices, city voters will be able to have a say in the document that might actually affect them the most, the City Charter.

There are 13 proposed changes to the document, which was first approved by voters on May 8, 1984, and city residents will have the opportunity to decide the fate of each.

The proposals are the work of a charter review commission that was convened more than eight months ago. Charged with examining all aspects of the document, the panel formulated its recommendations after a series of weekly meetings, which included a couple of public forums.

All of that work came under the direction of local attorney John J. Mascio, who was the city’s law director during the early 1980s, who chaired the commission. Its work was wide ranging, and its recommendations, if approved, will change the look of the city’s government.

Issue 1, for example, looks at term limits for council members and the mayor, while Issue 2 deals with the removal from office of the mayor or council members if they miss four consecutive meetings for reasons other than health, and for filling a vacant council seat. Issue 3 covers the powers of council, meetings and procedures, while Issue 4 proposes new salaries for the mayor and members beginning with their new terms while eliminating health care benefits.

Issue 5 changes the eligibility requirements for city manager candidates and outlines the process for designating an acting city manager; Issue 6 outlines qualifications for personnel in the police and fire departments; Issue 7 covers the qualifications for police and fire chiefs; while Issue 8 details qualifications for the city’s finance director and disciplinary powers of supervisors in the public works departments.

Issue 9 looks at the board of building appeals and the parks and recreation board; Issue 10 calls for the charter review commission to be called at least every 10 years; Issue 11 changes the necessary advertising for expenditures or contracts from three weeks to two weeks; Issue 12 repeals several paragraphs from the existing charter and Issue 13 authorizes the law director to appoint special counsel with the authorization of City Council.

There was a great deal of thought and work that went into each of these proposed changes, as Mascio pointed out during a meeting with members of City Council Tuesday night. Members of the review commission took the time to listen to residents who took the time to become involved in the process.

“We didn’t take these ideas off the top of our heads,” Mascio explained.

Not every city resident will agree with each of the 13 proposals, but every city resident who is eligible to vote will be able to make his or her voice known on each issue.

That’s why it’s important for residents to take the time to study each proposal between now and when they cast their ballots.

It’s a chance for residents to have a large say in deciding how the city will work in the future.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)