On Nov. 5, voters in Sunbury will have the opportunity to vote on a new governing methodology. The sole driver of this expectation is that the upcoming 2020 census will determine that the village’s population has exceeded 5,000 people. Chapter 703 of the Ohio Revised Code clearly states, “Villages, which, at any federal census, have a population of five thousand or more, shall become cities.”
Late in 2017, the Sunbury Village Council put in motion the procedures to enable a voter elected Commission to develop a proposed new Charter, setting out the primary mechanisms as to how the new city would be governed.
If voters do not approve the proposed Charter, Sunbury will still become a city, but it will be governed by the default statutory regulations dictated by the Ohio Constitution of 1912 and spelled out in Title 7, instead of the better thought out new Charter as developed and proposed by the Commission.
In my view, some of the negative impacts of not passing the new Charter include: Four of the seven members of the new council would be elected as ward councilmen representing specific areas of the city. The mayor alone would appoint a director of public service and safety, who would be the chief administrator of the city. The mayor would approve (or veto) all council-passed legislation and appropriations (council could override the mayor’s veto with a 2/3 vote). Council would only approve the overall annual budget, i.e., not necessarily involved with individual expenditures. Voters would elect the mayor, president of council, law director, auditor and treasurer, as well as the other council members.
The proposed Charter gives governing power to the collective body of the voter-elected council rather than concentrating significantly more power only in the mayor. All council members would be elected “at large,” i.e. no ward representation; Council would hire the city administrator, who would then determine the heads of the departments (except police chief, who would be determined by the mayor) and collectively be responsible for all city expenditures. If passed, some professional city staff necessary to perform the functions to run the government would continue with existing employees and not be forced to be elected on some arbitrary calendar schedule.
The new Charter, which spreads power evenly across the entire council, will serve the new city the best. Early voting starts Oct. 8, and I urge you to ensure that your voice is heard so that we avoid the default legislative-imposed fallback requirements.