Hudson City Council considering charter changes

Commission submits report on suggested amendments

JEFF SAUNDERS
Reporter
Kent Weeklies

HUDSON — The city’s charter review commission has done its job and now it is up to City Council to decide what to do with the recommendations.

Council gave first reading Tuesday to an ordinance that would place a number of proposed amendments to the document that sets out how the city is governed onto the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

“I think the charter review commission did an outstanding job,” said Council member at-large Hal DeSaussure. “They met 13 times this spring under some adverse conditions. They did make their way through the charter and they have brought forth their recommendations.”

The charter requires that Council appoint a charter review commission of residents who are voters at least every five years to examine the charter and make any recommendations of amendments to Council. This year’s commission consisted of nine members.

In a 25-page report to Council dated July 6, Commission Chairperson Robert S. Kagler outlined the numerous proposed amendments. According to the report, the commission is recommending that the three most substantial amendments be placed on the ballot as separate issues.

“The Commission feels it is important to give voters the option to approve or disapprove certain issues rather than placing all of the amendments into one ballot issue,” says the report.

The three separate amendments include:

— That when considering appointments to city boards, commissions, and committees, “Council should seek to achieve broad geographical representation.”

— That as Council appoints or reappoints planning commission members, it will work toward making sure each ward has at least one member on the commission.

— That any increase in residential maximum net density in a zoning district, that is allowing an increase in the number of homes within that district, has to be approved by at least six Council members.

Other proposed amendments that the commission recommends be placed in a fourth ballot issue are simply clarifications or clean up charter language, but the fourth issue would also include the following amendments:

— Require publication of proposed utility rate changes and announcements of public hearings on those changes as well as advertising for bids on contracts, on the city’s website for at least three consecutive weeks, in addition to the local newspaper, which is already a requirement.

— A stipulation that Council members will not be compensated for attendance at more than four meetings per month, rather than at more than two regular meetings as the charter currently states.

— That voters will approve Council appointees filling Council or mayoral vacancies during the next general election unless that election occurs within 90 days after the vacancy occurs, rather than the 60 days the charter currently requires.

— An amendment stating that only the city manager or Council can request that the city solicitor provide legal opinions in writing.

— That in addition to the city manager and Council members, the mayor can also request that the city solicitor draft proposed legislation.

— The park and cemetery boards and the tree commission will have five or seven members, rather than five to seven members for the two boards and five members on the commission, and that their four-year terms will be staggered.

— That in the process of removing a member of Council or a city board or commission, a charge or charges of wrongdoing justifying the removal must be brought by at least three Council members and that the accused member has to be notified of the charges in writing at least 30 days, rather than the currently required 15 days, prior to a hearing on the matter.

Further discussion planned

At a July 14 Council workshop, Council President William Wooldredge said Council would be happy to accept an offer from the commission to have representatives attend an upcoming workshop, perhaps one scheduled for July 28.

City Manager Jane Howington said Council members should provide questions in advance so that the commission members will be better prepared to provide answers.

“In the meantime, we can ask the various Council members to submit their questions,” said Wooldredge, adding “If there are questions, that would be great for them to come in.”

During the public comments section of Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Edgeview Drive resident Sarah Norman said she had been following the commission’s work closely.

“Overall, I have to say this group really deserves the commendation of the City Council and our leaders, our mayor, because they’ve really been very diligent,” said Norman, adding that the commission took public comments, including hers, seriously.

However, she said there were three additional amendments she would have liked included:

— Term limits for Council members. Norman said the commission rejected this because it felt “continuity of leadership” is important, but it did not have qualms about existing term limits for board and commission members. She said she believes there is “a very deep talent pool in Hudson” and that term limits would make up for advantages that incumbents have in elections.

— Norman believes changes in the city’s tax credit should be approved by a supermajority of Council rather than a simple majority to limit potential “abuse.”

— She said she would like to see a section added that deals with the relationship between government entities. Norman explained specifically that she does not believe City Council and the Board of Education should officially endorse each others’ tax levy issues, as has happened in the past.

Council members did not comment on Norman’s suggested amendments.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.