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So Why Did Voters Decide Two-Year Council Terms Are Better?

city hall
Bill Rinehart

When Cincinnati's next council is elected in 2021, members will serve two-year terms instead of the current four.
Voters approved a charter amendment making the change Tuesday.

Sean Comer, the government relations director at Xavier University, said when four-year terms were approved in 2012, voters were told it would increase collaboration and decrease campaigning.

"I don't think we've seen less campaigning and I think that's one of the things that voters saw, it's not like we've seen anything better," Comer said. "And there just has been pretty consistent coverage of disagreement at City Hall on any number of issues that's been constant over the past couple of years. So, I think having a chance to vote on that, lets voters say 'No, we want to be able to vote you out of office earlier.' "

The amendment is the latest in a series of tweaks to the city's electoral process.  

Comer said it may be time for a bigger review.

"It would be nice at some point if there truly was a comprehensive question of what do we want our government to be; what's the best form of government that's out there?" Comer said. "I think the challenge to that is that takes serious time, serious effort; it takes a coalition outside of City Hall really to be the ones pushing for it. And it has to include a whole lot of voices because everybody wants something different out of the process."

Meanwhile, city council will now be able to hold executive, or closed, sessions to discuss things like personnel matters, legal issues and the purchase or sale of property.

Voters approved a charter amendment allowing for such sessions consistent with Ohio law.  

Comer wondered if voters really understood the ballot language.

"An amendment that says, you know, 'All meetings must be held in accordance with the requirements of the open meeting act' -- that doesn't exactly say, 'Hey council's going to meet in executive session now,' " Comer said. "Those of us in the know, know that was the case. I think for many voters they probably thought they were voting for larger measures of transparency. And voted for it in large numbers because of a lot of what's been in the news lately about what's been going on at council."

Comer is referring to a lawsuit alleging five council members violated the open meetings law with a series of group text messages discussing the status of former city manager Harry Black.  

While city council can hold private discussions on some issues, any votes related to those matters must be taken in an open meeting.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.