Last month, Delaware County officials joined together to voice their opposition to the controversial State Issue 1. At last week’s Delaware City Council meeting, council members also took a stance on the issue, voting in favor of a resolution to formally oppose the proposed amendment to the state constitution.
Five members voted in favor of the resolution, with Councilwoman Lisa Keller and Councilman George Hellinger voting against the city’s resolution. Keller said she personally would vote against the state amendment, but she “would prefer to allow my constituents to make up their own minds about how to vote on issues.” Hellinger agreed with Keller’s stance.
According to the summary of the initiative petition, “This Amendment would add a new section 12 to Article XV of the Ohio Constitution to reduce the number of people in state prison for low-level, nonviolent drug possession or drug use offenses or for non-criminal probation violations and by providing sentence credits for participation in rehabilitative programs and to direct the savings achieved by such reductions in incarceration to drug treatment programs and other purposes.”
City Manager Tom Homan, in addressing council, said, “We think it bares on the city and would place an undue burden on our municipal court. Moreover, in our feeling, it’s not the appropriate way to address a public policy issue, through the constitution.”
“I’m all for the kinds of reform that allow us to help addicts get treatment,” Vice Mayor Kent Shafer added. “(This law) takes discretion completely out of the hands of the judges … it has a fiscal impact on the city, but more importantly, it’s a tremendously bad criminal justice move for the state and for the city.”
Councilman Kyle Rohrer, who is the first assistant prosecutor for Delaware County, agreed with Shafer’s words, adding he expected approximately 105 additional cases to fall at the feet of the municipal court as a result of the change in drug possession cases from felonies to misdemeanors, underlining the impact the amendment would have on the city budget.
Shafer added, “I don’t see this as telling our constituents how to vote, I see this as weighing in on an important public policy issue.”
While most candidates representing Delaware County have shown opposition to the proposed amendment, county commissioner candidate Aileen Wagner (D) and Ohio House of Representatives District 68 candidate Kathleen Tate (D) have both shown support for the amendment.
“Drug addiction is more often than not an illness sort of issue,” Wagner said at the Ostrander candidates night event in October. “It’s a way to help them without criminalizing and getting them further into the criminal process.”
Ohio residents will decide the issue’s fate at the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.