Voters to decide on changes to Oregon’s Charter

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council on Monday agreed to let voters decide on proposed changes to the city’s charter.
        From time to time, review of the charter is needed to ensure consistency with state and federal election laws and also for efficient and responsive city government.
        Upon review of the charter, the city administration proposed amendments, including changes to the city primary election process and timeline, changes to methods of filling vacancies on city council, and other changes that recognize the four year staggered term of council.
        “We began discussing these charter changes at the request of the board of elections,” said City Administrator Mike Beazley. “It asked all the cities in the county to take a look at our primary election dates, and recognizing the date that our terms begin. Our terms commence the first of December, whereas every other term for local governments begin January 1. With the election system that exists now – the board is not allowed to begin the certification process until 10 days after the election. At least twice in my time here, the board wasn’t able to certify the election results until after the day we were supposed to begin. One of our council candidates decided to forego the right to a recount to facilitate it. Virtually everyone else has switched to a January 1 term date. This simply does that. For future elections, terms would commence January 1.”
Primary election
        The second component essentially deals with changes to the primary election process, he said.
        “Most cities here have primaries on the second week of September. As state, federal and local election laws have evolved, it is not practical to have September primaries to have the election results certified and the absentee ballots printed for people overseas serving our country and to have them get their ballots back in time for the November election. So the board asked us to take a look at this issue. Some communities have moved their primary to May. Sylvania decided not to have a primary. We haven’t had a primary for council here in many years. We’ve had an occasional primary for mayor,” he said.
         “It seems expensive to the taxpayers, confuses voters, and there is a smaller turnout. This would eliminate our primaries, and just have people win the election in November.”
        Beazley said it costs the city at least $50,000 to hold a primary election.
        “To print the ballots, mail out the absentee ballots – it’s a pretty good chunk of change,” he said.
        The final change would be on filling vacancies on city council.
Filling vacancy
        For a number of years, we’ve had a system where the next highest vote-getter in our election automatically filled a vacant seat. That is when we didn’t have staggered terms as we do now. So there’s some ambiguity. Some people in favor of a system like that believe it helps take politics out of it. The next highest vote-getter should get it.  There’s the other system in which the legislative authority fills the vacancy until the next election. The argument against that is, there should never be a time someone who wasn’t elected automatically becomes an elected official. There’s no perfect system.  Reasonable minds will look at a variety of ways. After discussion at the committee of the whole, there was a general consensus that it was best for voters to decide.”
        Councilwoman Kathleen Pollauf asked if the provisions would be on the ballot as one issue, or voted on separately.
Council decides
        Beazley said it is up to city council to decide.
        “The general assumption is that the three components will be put on the ballot as one item,” he said.
        “Council could put them on as three, if they wanted to. The general sense is, the more issues you put on the ballot, the less likely anything passes. There’s some confusion,” said Beazley
Councilman Paul Drake III said he favored that changes be on the ballot as three separate issues.
        “All three of these are totally different. I don’t believe they should all be wrapped together,” he said.
        Council President Tim Zale agreed.
        “I was under the impression that we would break these up as three separate issues. I do think if we’re going to submit it to the public for a vote, if there’s one they don’t like or agree with, it won’t knock the other two out,” said Zale.
        Council voted 5-2 to list the proposed changes separately on the ballot.


The Press

The Press
1550 Woodville Road
Millbury, OH 43447

(419) 836-2221

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Ohio News Media Association