June 12, 2010

County charter group is circulating petitions

Info meetings next week in Conneaut, Geneva

By MARK TODD – mtodd@starbeacon.comStar Beacon

JEFFERSON — Petitions aimed at putting a county charter initiative on the November ballot are being circulated across Ashtabula County, said Kyle Smith, a spokesman for the Committee for Ashtabula County Reform.

Forty petitions are being passed around in every corner of the county, Smith said. “We hope to have 5,000 signatures by June 25,” he said.

The group is working to replace the current government arrangement with a plan that would basically rewrite the way the county does business. The charter would replace the three-member board of commissioners with a seven-member council and a professional county executive. The executive would appoint many of the positions now elected.

Public meetings to explain the charter proposal will be held next week in Conneaut and Geneva. The Conneaut session is 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Conneaut Human Resources Center, 327 Mill St. The Geneva meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Geneva’s City Council chambers. Questions will be welcomed and petitions will be available.

The concept is patterned after an arrangement now in place in Summit County and approved by Cuyahoga County voters a few months ago.

Proponents say the current method of government is ineffective and needs a major overhaul, and that message is striking home with a growing number of voters, Smith said.

“People understand there are issues with the structure we’ve been operating under,” Smith said. “County services have been seriously cut. A charter is the only option out there.”

The idea of a charter first surfaced in late fall. A series of meetings that began in December led to a charter proposal that can be read on the group’s Web site,

An informational session held last month in Jefferson attracted more than 120 people, Smith said. Organizers were encouraged by the response.

“We’re hoping for a good turnout in Conneaut and Geneva,” Smith said.

The movement is enjoying growing support, Smith said.

“We’ve grown in number and diversity,” he said. “We are a full-fledged, community grass-roots effort.”

Folks from every walk of life are starting to appreciate the message, Smith said.

“The strength of the movement is in its diversity,” he said. “We have Democrats, Republicans, people who live in the city and in the rural areas.”


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