By Frank Lewis
Three members of Portsmouth City Council stood their ground against suspending the “three readings” rule. As a result, three charter amendments that were headed for the November ballot will not be on that ballot after all.
The first amendment was the one that would lock in place the “vote for not more than one” wording on the ballot for city council elections. Council saw a need for the ordinance when the ballot in May allowed Sixth Ward voters to vote for two candidates instead of just one, something the city had never done before.
The second amendment was one that would form a charter committee to go over the city’s charter to find sections that need updating. The third simply removes the two word phrase “and audits” from a section dealing with the financial operation that now reads – “a department of finance and audits, and such other departments and officers as may be established by ordinance.”
The plan was to suspend the rules for each of those amendments so they could go to the Scioto County Board of Elections by Aug. 5 since the next council meeting is not until Aug. 10. However, three members voiced their displeasure with suspending the rules and not giving the public adequate time to study the measure.
“I have no problem with this charter amendment,” Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows said. “But I’m not in favor of suspending rules very often, we all know that. This is an issue that’s important to the process. I believe the citizens, whether they comment or not, should have every opportunity to come and comment on items such as this. Because we didn’t get it done quick enough to get it on this election, there’s another election coming up. Next May will be here before you know it. It’s also going to be in between Council elections. So the issue we’re trying to address here (amendment 1) isn’t going to come into play until after this ordinance has had time to go through three readings and then be placed on the ballot if we so choose to do that.”
The disagreement with suspending the rules was not over.
“I too express the same sentiments as Councilman Meadows,” Third Ward Councilman Kevin E. Johnson said. “I support all of these ordinances, but I think I made it obvious earlier in the year I support on very few occasions the waiving of the three reading rule, and we’ve had time to get this together and maybe put it on the May ballot.”
Mayor Jim Kalb reminded council the amendments are not new to them or the public as they have been discussed on numerous occasions.
“We talked about it in the conference session. We had a (first) reading on it and this is at least the third time it has been brought up,” Kalb said. “I do understand how you feel about suspending the rules and everything before we have a second reading and the next option we have for getting this on the ballot is in May.”
All were wrong about the date. Ohio’s 2016 primary election has been set tentatively for March 15.
When the vote was taken, Sixth Ward Councilman Jeff Kleha joined with Kevin E. Johnson and Meadows in voting not to suspend the rules, so the motion failed.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.