Charter Amendments On The 2018 Ballot: Required Reading Before You Vote

Oct 31, 2018

Voters in the city of Cincinnati have six city charter amendments to decide on Nov. 6 – all of them placed on the ballot by a majority of city council. Here's what they are:

Issues 10 And 11

Both deal with the length of city council terms.

Starting in 2013, city council went to a system where all nine council members were elected to four-year terms – all nine in the same year. Prior to that – going all the way back to the creation of the council-manager form of government back in 1925 – council members were all elected to two-year terms in a field race.

Issue 10 would return to the two-year terms, beginning again in 2021.

Under Issue 11, in 2021 five council members would be elected to four-year terms while the remaining four would be elected to a two-year term. In 2023, those four would be elected to four-year terms. That would result in staggered four-year terms, with five being up for re-election in 2025 and the other four up for re-election in 2027.

So what happens if voters pass both Issue 10 and Issue 11? That’s well within the range of possibility.

If that were to happen, the issue with the most votes would become part of the city charter. And if they both fail? The four-year terms remain in effect, with all nine up for re-election in 2021. One argument against Issue 11 – the staggered, four-year terms – is that it is a bit complicated to kick into operation.

Proponents say the staggered four-year terms would make council members more accountable to the public and make them less focused on running for re-election every two years.

Those who favor the two-year terms argue that it keeps council members engaged with the city's residents. And, if city residents were fed up with a council member or members, they would not have to wait four years to turn them out.

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Issue 12

This issue would allow Cincinnati City Council to hold executive sessions of city council on city issues.

But the issues that council could discuss behind closed doors would be limited and would match the Ohio Open Meetings Act.

A majority of council could vote to go into executive session to discuss personnel issues; the purchase and sale of property; discussions with city lawyers over pending or imminent legislation; or preparations for bargaining with public employee unions.

Before going into a closed-door session, council would have to state publicly which category their discussion would fall under. And any action or legislation coming out of an executive session would have to be voted on in a public session.

Since 2000, the city charter has prevented council from having any private discussions.

If the issue fails, council will continue to be prohibited from holding executive sessions.

The issues of executive sessions became a contentious issue earlier this year when council had a heated public battle over whether former city manager Harry Black should be fired. Black ended up resigning with a severance payment.

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Issue 13

This issue would amend the Cincinnati charter to limit campaign contributions.

And it came as the direct result of something which happened in the 2017 mayoral race. The donation limit for an individual is $1,100. But, for years now, the rules of the Cincinnati Election Commission have allowed one person to give $1,100 under as many LLCs (limited liability corporations) as they own.

In the Cincinnati mayoral race last year, incumbent John Cranley raked in $260,950 in LLC contributions, prompting a majority of council members to place a charter amendment on the ballot making LLC contributions illegal.

If it passes, a person or his or her company can only give up to $1,100 to a candidate, not both. Eight of the nine members of council – all except Jeffrey Pastor – support Issue 13. They believe it gives too much power to the city's wealthiest people in municipal elections. Pastor opposes it, saying Issue 13 would limit free speech.

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Issues 14 And 15

These two charter amendments have probably gotten the least attention, and both would amend the city charter when it comes to examining preference measures for police and firefighter hiring and other civil service jobs.

Issue 14 would delete the charter's provision that only Ohio residents are eligible for the military veterans' preference points in the city's civil service exams, as long as they are honorably discharged veterans.

Issue 15 would amend the charter to provide that the graduates of a public safety academy would receive an extra five points in entry examination for classified jobs in the city's police and fire departments.

At this point, though, there is no public safety academy established by the Cincinnati Public Schools in collaboration with the City of Cincinnati.