STOW — Voters this fall will have a chance to determine if they support term limits for planning commission members and they may get to decide whether they should have the authority to approve pay raises for elected officials.
City Council on July 25 voted 6-1 to send a proposal to the November ballot asking voters to amend the charter to establish term limits for planning commission members.
The vote was a do-over: Council had voted in May to put the issue on the fall ballot, but Stow Law Director Brendan Mackin said the Summit County Board of Elections had since notified him that the phrase “partial repeal” was in the language. Mackin said the board felt the phrase was an error because no wording is being repealed in the proposed charter change.
Mackin said the board told him the language was “confusing” and recommended fixing it before the election. The deadline to file this issue for the November ballot is Sept. 6.
If it’s approved by voters, the proposed revision would add language to the charter stating: “No planning commission member shall serve more than two consecutive four-year terms as a member of the Planning Commission. Any Planning Commission member disqualified from holding such public office due to the aforementioned term limitation shall become eligible to hold the same public office upon the expiration of four years.”
If the change is backed by voters, it would take effect Jan. 2, 2020.
Currently, planning commission members do not have term limits.
The proposal was requested by Council member Mike Rasor (At Large), who at a past meeting said he believes it’s important “to have fresh faces” serve in positions where “policy is being made.”
Council member Jim Costello (At Large) voted “no,” explaining he does not favor term limits for commission members. He said it is a volunteer position and a process is already in place where the mayor selects a commission member who is then confirmed by council.
Residents may get to vote on elected officials’ pay raises that exceed cost of living hikes for other employees
Council on July 25 had a first reading on legislation asking voters to amend the charter to require voters to approve pay raises for elected officials that “exceeds the cost of living raises that are provided to city employees for the most recent year.”
Council member Mike Rasor (At Large) told the Sentry on Aug. 1 that legislators on Aug. 8 will look at an amended version in which voters would be asked to change the charter to require voters to approve all pay raises for elected officials. He added this proposal includes language preventing council from passing a pay cut for elected officials in the 75-day period after each municipal election in November.
“The [proposed] increases will need to specify the percentage of increase, so voters have context,” said Rasor. “… There is a freeze period for [pay] decreases, so that council cannot vindictively cut pay based on whom they see was elected.”
The new language in the charter being proposed by Rasor would state: “Council shall establish the compensation of the Mayor, Finance Director, Law Director, and members of Council and each officer and employee, or member of any board or commission, of the Municipality, whether elected or appointed, except as specifically provided otherwise in this Charter. Provided, however, any increase in compensation for an elected official shall be submitted for approval to the electors of the City of Stow in a general election, which submission shall include the percentage increase and the new salary within the ballot language. Provided, further, no decrease in compensation shall be adopted by Council during the 75-day period that begins on an odd-year or municipal Election Day.”
The charter currently says council shall establish the pay levels of council, mayor, finance director and law director for the next term no later than May 1 of an election year. It also states that the compensation levels of the mayor, finance director and law director “may be increased, but not decreased, by council within such term.”
Rasor is seeking to replace this language with the proposal to require voter approval of pay raises.
Rasor noted he believes it’s a “conflict of interest” for council to determine its own pay, and there are “potential biases involved in setting [the] pay of your colleagues who work in co-equal branches [such as mayor].”
“As it’s written, it’s very pro-politician,” said Rasor. “And it sets the potential for abuse.”
Changing the charter to give voters a say on pay raises of elected officials would provide a “check and balance,” said Rasor.
“I think it would be worthwhile to have the citizens be able to vote on their elected officials’ pay raise,” added Council member Brian Lowdermilk (Ward 3).
Council President Matt Riehl (Ward 3) said he would like to see more cities use this approach.
So far, there are two city charter amendment proposals on the November ballot. In addition to the one requesting term limits for planning commission members, council has decided to ask voters to change the charter to state that municipal leaders must obtain voters’ approval before they enter an agreement to “transfer control” of its dispatch center from the city to “a regional or multi-agency control.”
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.
This story was updated at 8:26 p.m. on Aug. 2.