We have noticed comments on the Star Beacon website and wanted you to have an opportunity to read those comments along with answers of what the charter really says. 

Pittsburg Phil wrote:

Allegheny County charter proposal failed twice in 1974 and 1977 because it eliminated these elected officials from the ballot (sheriff, auditor, coroner, tax assessor, etc). It was thought the charter would allow the county to have greater leeway in ‘revenue generation’, that means the kiss of death politically here because it means ‘tax increases’ = ‘revenue generation’.

When it did pass in 1999 by 564 votes out of 210,608 cast, it created an elected County Executive to manage the county. That’s not being proposed here.

The democratic party will not be for this, unions will not be for this, and people against tax increases will not be for this.

FOLLOW UP- Tempus Fugit wrote:

@ Pittsburg Phil

Those appear to be some very insightful and knowledgeable remarks about the Alleghany Co. Charter, sir. *However*, I feel obliged to point out that not a single one of them pertains to the proposed *Ashtabula* Charter.

This charter rather explicitly bans the Council from raising the sales tax without putting it up for a vote by the citizens.

This Charter keeps almost every position elected. Alleghany, and many others, did as you say make most appointed. This charter is quite different, which is why we encourage people to *read* it, not Alleghany’s or Cuyahoga’s.

County Charter Government isn’t such a common thing that people are too familiar with the concept, so I think many assume it is something specific. It is not, a Charter can entail almost anything. It merely establishes that the citizens of a county wish to design their own government rather than using the default form offered by the State or any of the handful of minor modifications they suggest. They also wisely offer the ability to almost totally customize things, via a charter.

Smart idea, ‘Here’s the basic model, here’s a few variants, and if those don’t work for you write up your own.’

So we did.

By the way, I certainly agree with you, personally, that an appointed County Executive is a bad idea. We don’t appoint our Governor or President, we elect them.

Thing is… we don’t have a County Executive, appointed or elected. We have a County Administrator – we have one now incidentally – which is a very different animal then a County Exec. In much the same way Barrack Obama, President, is very different than Dan Strodel, the appointed Chief Administrative Officer of the US House. The Admin is subordinate to the elected Council, not superior or co-equal, same as the Finance Director or Law Director will be. The Sheriff, the Prosecutor, the Auditor, etc are co-equal, but there’s no need to elect a subordinate County Admin anymore than to elect the Council’s Clerk. We think that going from 3 At-Large commissioners with an appointed Admin to a 7 By-District Council with an appointed Admin is a logical first step. However, *if* the people want an County Exec, or a more powerful appointed County Admin, they have, with this charter, the ability to make that happen, by simple majority vote.

I hope, once you review the *Ashtabula* Charter, you’ll see that it is a very solid document, but I wish to stress that the best part abut a charter, unlike our current form, is that if we don’t like something, or if we think something needs added, we can put it on the ballot and let the voters decide.


Back to the Drawing Board wrote:

Cutting salaries and expanding the number of commissioners is not realistic. Talk real world for a change.

An all city-all county charter combined need to be addressed.

In addition to providing for an alternative form of county government, a city-county charter may also merge the county with cities and other municipal corporations within its boundaries. Consolidated city-county governments proposal as a way to improve local government services by eliminating conflicts between competing levels of local government. That’s where the savings are to be found. One health department, one building department, one fire department, one law enforcement and policing agency, and legal department.

Modeling a small rural county after big county Cuyahoga isn’t going to be adapted well here. Y’all know that, so why push a ‘copy-cat charter’.

Adopt your own charter, reflect on the real world possibilities in this county, eliminate duplicative services where the real saving are to be found in county/city government, and recognize that only by politics will this charter proposal will be approved.

The answer is easy if the problem is correctly stated. So far, this committee is addressing the wrong problem, and that shows in their wrong answer.

FOLLOW UP- Tempus Fugit wrote:

@ Back to the Drawing Board

The problem about going ‘back to the drawing board’ is that you tend to keep doing it forever, our philosophy is to get something good, get it in place, and improve it as better ideas emerge. The Founders knew this, that’s why the country had been around for over a decade before we had the Constitution, and we amended it 10 times shortly thereafter and 17 more times since then. Much like them, we’re a very diverse group so we don’t agree on everything and if it wasn’t something we agreed on and wasn’t vital on Day 1, we left it out, or arranged it so that there was plenty of time for people to see it in action and remove it if they felt it wasn’t ideal. Compromise is all about about Common Concerns and Common Sense, probably why we see so little of it from higher government or bureaucracies.

Also, it is always a wise idea to read a document before criticizing it, among other things it makes one look a bit more savvy. It is *not* that long.

This is not a ‘copy-cat’ of Cuyahoga or Summit’s Charters. It borrows some language, as it borrows from several other charters proposed or enacted in Ohio or out, there’s no point re-inventing the wheel, when it comes to certain legally necessary inclusions, like Equal Opportunity. I’ll point out some of those very large differences in a moment, first…

I do not know why you think one must turn a County into one super-city which would be larger than New York or LA though still contain only 100,000 people, but this is not the goal of the charter. The idea of the charter is to give the County government more flexibility than the default, basic form enacted by the State. We want more local oversight and control, not less, and while there are advantages to the sorts of department mergers you mention, why stop there? Why not one unified State Police Force? Or even one Federal Police Force? Heck, why not get rid of individual family homes in favor of massive dormitories with shared baths and kitchens? Very efficient, at least on first inspection.

No, we think the cities, townships and villages are best to keep running as they see fit, as their voters see fit, and we aim to make the County’s resources more available to them. The premise of County Charter Government is to allow individual counties to customize their setup, instead of using the one-size-fits-all, outdated form designed by the state simply as a default system to use while including alternatives to be enacted. Now with that in minds, why would we strip away that ability to tailor and customize from the cities and villages?

We think the County needs the ability to tailor to modern times and local issues, and we see no reason to stop ‘zooming in’ there.

Now as to your ‘unrealistic’ commentary on salaries, this only applies to the 7-person Council, no one others are explicitly changed by the Charter. We keep the salary low for much the same reason we have term limits – which are 3 consecutive full 4-year terms, not 3 years as the article misreports – and that reason is we don’t want ‘professional councilmen’, these persons, explicitly there to represent the general concerns of their district, them we want to remain principally private citizens with day jobs.

Raising those salaries, much like removing term limits, isn’t hard. All the council has to do is vote by simple majority to put it on the ballot and let the people decide. They can do that with anything, just as the people can place referendums on to change the charter.

Now, on the copycat notion, the most obvious major differences to Cuyahoga’s are as follows:

1) Off year elections – this Charter makes it so local county matters aren’t drowned out by Presidential and Gubernatorial races.

2) They elect a County-Executive, essentially a governor or president equivalent, a ‘Count’, if you would. We don’t, the Council appoints an administrator to handle administrative matters for them.

3) They can raise sales taxes without having it approved by the voters first.

4) They appoint everyone but the Council, the Exec, and the Prosecutor. We keep positions which may have legitimate conflict with the Council as elected positions, like our Sheriff and Auditor, who we think might conceivably need to investigate the Council and thus probably shouldn’t be hired/fired by them.

5) Their Economic Development is a department, ours is a Board consisting almost entirely of elected officials, city managers, and representatives from the Growth Partnerships and Port Authority. People who are directly accountable to the public and/or already aware of local economic concerns.

6) Non-partisan elections – Party politics presumably has its place, but not at the county-level anymore than municipal, judicial, school board, or township level. At these levels it just gets in the way of letting the people find the best candidates.

7) Term Limits, they don’t have them, we do, 12 years, and if you’re not a term limit fan it only takes a up/down vote by the people to remove them, like everything else in the charter.

8) Initiative and Referendum – Cuyahoga excludes some things from being subject to referendum, we don’t. We rely on the simple difficulty of circling a petition to prevent excessive use, but if 3000 people think something should be voted on, than we think that is proof in and of itself that the matter is not trivial.

… and I could go on, but let me instead point out a few things they do have that we also have in the charter, but don’t have now, because ‘copycat’ isn’t a bad word.

1) Recall Elections – We can’t recall our Commissioners, Sheriff, Prosecutor, etc right now, with the charter, we can.

2) District Representation – They’ve 11, we’ve 7, on the website you can see them, clean, compact, equal-population districts to represent those area’s needs.

3) Required Readings – The council can’t just vote something through one evening by simple majority, it has to be unveiled to the public and given time to be read by them and objected to.

4) Law Director – we both remove counseling the government from the Prosecutor, so they can focus on prosecuting crime, and establish a legal adviser to the Council and the Townships. Back in the day, when counties were fewer in people, and litigation wasn’t so common, this was a minor duty the prosecutor – sometimes the only lawyer in town – could handle as a side note. Those days are gone.

There are more, but I’m getting long winded, *read* the charter, don’t just assume some identical text in places means it is the same. Even if it were though, better that then what we have now, and the great thing about charter government is the people can *change* it.

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