Judging by a meeting on Thursday, Delaware’s city charter may receive an extensive update by a commission that is reviewing the 30-page document.
Members of the Charter Review Commission said they often found the language in the first articles difficult to read, as well as cumbersome.
Regarding a particularly difficult section, chairwoman Mary Jane Santos said, “We’ll set it aside, since none of us understand it.”
City Attorney Darren Shulman said he would attempt to clean up the language in time for the next meeting, on March 24.
Commission members also brought up a section about eminent domain, and whether to leave it in. Opinion was divided, with some wishing to remove it altogether. Others wanted to leave it in, but to remove a sunset clause.
Another topic of conversation was regarding resolutions, and allowing City Council to enact resolutions for legislation that has a time element. Currently, the charter said council needs to use an ordinance that has to go to three readings, and once passed, requires 30 days before it can go into effect. With some legislation such as development projects, contracts or grant requests, there is a need to speed up the process. In order to do this, council has to approve a motion to waive the three readings and declare an emergency for passage, which some council members have criticized.
There was also talk about whether more people should be added to City Council, taking into account population growth. Delaware currently has seven council members, with four coming from separate wards, and three at-large. Shulman said the wards are divided equally by population, and redrawn after every census. It was noted that in comparison, there are only three commissioners who pass legislation that affects the entire county.
Other discussion included what constitutes a resident, timing of terms, oath of office dates, discipline and a code of conduct for council members, additional powers for council, checks and balances for council and the city manager, adding subjects from a “model charter” and a commentary section.
Santos also brought up the possibility of a runoff election if there were multiple candidates for council to ensure a clear majority. However, it was noted that there would be an added cost for a second election.
Delaware’s charter was adopted in 1951, when the city went to a council-manager form of government. The 30-page document consists of 25 articles that outline the duties of City Council, the city manager, city staff, departments and boards.
Every eight years, Delaware’s city charter is required to be examined by a nine-person review commission. After several meetings, the commission will submit its report of recommendations to City Council by July 11. Once recommendations are made, council will decide which, if any, recommendations it will submit to city voters in November’s general election.
The charter can viewed at www.delawareohio.net. Suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 740-203-1010.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.