Every eight years, Delaware’s city charter is required to be examined by a nine-person review commission.
And it’s time for a charter review in 2016.
“Reviewing the city’s charter is one of the most important things that we can do,” said review commission chair Mary Jane Santos in an email. “It is the city’s constitution, the rules and regulations and laws by which our city is governed.”
“The charter review is unique among our boards and commissions,” said Lee Yoakum, the city’s community affairs coordinator. “You’re working with history, and what actions are taken is a legacy for future residents of the city.”
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.
“Without reviewing them every eight years, they can become obsolete, they can become out of date, and become illegal as well,” Santos said. “It also gives us the opportunity to add new laws or change the ones that are currently in effect.”
The commission can choose to submit several recommendations for changes to City Council, or it could choose to make none. Once recommendations are made, council will decide which, if any, recommendations it will submit to city voters in November’s general election.
In some cases, the changes could be minor. For example, the revisions in 2008 included changing the words “firemen” and “policemen” to “firefighters” and “police officers.” In other years, sections of articles have been amended.
After several meetings, the commission will submit its report of recommendations to City Council by July 11.
Recommendations approved by council will then be voted on by city residents in November. In 1992, voters repealed several sections of Article V, which pertained to initiatives, referendums and recalls.
The Charter Review Commission held its organizational meeting on Feb. 4. Santos, a past City Council member and former county library director who also served in 2008, was chosen as chairwoman. The vice chair is Dan Bennington, a former city of Delaware attorney. Other commission members include Mayor Carolyn Riggle, Jeremy Byers, Megan Cochran, Cathy Falter, Jack Hilborn, Charlotte Joseph and Stephanie Steinbeck.
The commission was chosen by City Council.
The commission will next meet at 5 p.m. Feb. 25 in City Hall council chambers, 1 S. Sandusky St. The public may attend.
“It’s important work and I’m very happy to be helping the city and our citizens accomplish it,” Santos said. “If anyone in the city has any comments about the city’s charter and changes he or she would like to see made, I certainly hope he or she will contact me.”
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.