STOW – The charter review commission June 17 listened to council input about charter changes.
The charter review commission, which meets every five years to review the city charter, is considering staggering terms between council ward members and at-large members so that they are elected two years apart and would not come up for re-election at the same time. They also prefer four-year terms to two-year terms.
Council president Sindi Harrison said that this was the first time term limits have impacted the city and wanted the commission to give it more time to "play out" and let the next charter review commission in 2025 look at it after a cycle of elections.
"I don’t think it’s bad to have new people on council," Harrison said. "I like the two-year term. I think it keeps the council people in front of their constituents. I think four years would be a long time and [council members] would not have any real incentive to be involved with their constituents."
Charter review commission member Alan Narvy said this was the first time for a completely new council to be elected but it could happen again.
"If elections are staggered, we’ll have new ideas," Narvy said. "I just think we need to do it."
Chairman John Baranek said Harrison believed council members wouldn’t stay in touch with constituents if they ran every four years but one of their responsibilities is to stay in touch with residents whether they run for a two-year or four-year term.
"They need to get out there and meet with residents," Baranek said. "They should have open hours to meet with constituents."
The commission decided to move ahead with staggering terms as one of the charter amendments.
Baranek said they would look at the wording for term limits and what eight years means.
"We should have it for two full four-year terms," Narvy said.
"It would not include time spent filling a vacancy by appointment or by special election," said Vice Chair Deborah Matz.
Every time a city has a special election, the city has to bear the costs of that special election, Matz said.
"It doesn’t benefit the city and wastes money," Matz said. "You appoint the person and let them run out the appointed term and then have regularly scheduled elections."
The charter only allows council to meet at the city hall council chambers which made it difficult when joint meetings were called with different municipalities, Baranek said.
Baranek said the location for special meetings and the number limiting it to six in section 4.09 should be changed.
"It gives them more flexibility, but I would like them to use their own [regular] meetings," Baranek said. "I don’t know why they threw out there they could only have six meetings. It’s like they could only have council meetings in the council chamber."
Besides the location of council meetings and number of special meetings, Harrison mentioned the parks board which is under the service department and doesn’t have authority to do its duties defined in the charter.
"The service department tells them what projects they are working on," Harrison said. "They aren’t asked to prioritize which I think they should direct."
In a previous meeting Council member Cyle Feldman asked the commission to look at the committee assignments for council. Currently Harrison chairs two, Jeremy McIntire chairs two with Mario Fiocca and Steve Hailer chairing one each. That leaves Cyle Feldman and Christina Shaw chairing no committees.
Harrison said that council committees are not under the charter but codified ordinances and that’s where it would have to change. Council is looking at having committee meetings on a different night from council meetings to allow more discussion in committees.
Baranek said the previous council had committee meetings on Mondays and then changed it to one night but that was in their rules and regulations and not in the charter.
The commission plans to look at staggering terms, clarification of term limits; the wording for location of meetings; and number of times for special meetings.
In addition, the commission will look at the contract for a regional dispatch center and look into the authority and duties of the park board.
Baranek said they could invite police and fire to talk about the dispatch center and the mayor for the park board.
Law Director Jaime Syx said they need to prepare items for council by July 9 but they could continue to give them items up to Aug. 1.
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org