Council does not approve charter changes

The city council, by a 3-3-1 vote tonight (Monday evening, November 5), did not approve proposed changes to the city charter. A charter-change resolution requires a majority vote, which tonight’s resolution, on second reading, did not receive. The resolution failed.

Also, the council approved 50% city coverage of the cost of councilmember individual enrollment in the city’s health plan, effective for the council elected in 2013, and an indexed council pay increase that should amount to $100-150 per year. The council rejected city payment, into a deferred compensation plan, for councilmembers who do not enroll in the city’s health plan, of an amount equal to the 50% cost coverage.

The rejected charter changes would have a) allowed the council to create, by a separate ordinance, a residency requirement for the city manager and executive employees as well as waivers and b) given the council an “advice” role in the hiring, by the city manager, of executive employees.

Voting For were Councilmembers Tim Male, Terry Seamens, and Kay Daniels-Cohen. Voting Against were Mayor Bruce Williams and Councilmembers Fred Schultz and Seth Grimes. Councilmember Jarrett Smith abstained.

The October 22, first-reading vote on the charter-change resolution was 6-0-1. I abstained, given that I opposed the residency-requirement provision but supported the “advice” provision. I reconsidered my “advice” support because it went far beyond what had originally been proposed, namely to give council a role prior to the start of recruiting. Bruce Williams, Fred, and opposed I the residency requirements. Our first-reading votes — Fred & Bruce for, myself abstaining — reflected recognition that there had been compromises made by the proponents.

Tonight, the initial vote was 4-2-1, with Bruce voting For. Once Bruce saw the shape of the vote, he called for reconsideration, his right as one of the majority in the first vote. He changed his vote to Against, leading to a 3-3-1 tally.

City Attorney Sue Silber will check that reconsideration was proper. If it was, the rejection will stand.

Jarrett explained his abstention as reflecting concern about the bundling of multiple, distinct charter changes in a single resolution. He had proposed to table the charter-change resolution for one week, in order to allow the changes to be handled in separate resolutions. The council rejected that proposal by a 4-3 vote.

The council had received additional written public comment at tonight’s meeting, all opposed to the charter-change resolution. Residents Bruce Moyer, on behalf of the Westmoreland Area Community Organization, and Troy Jacobs of Ward 5 testified Against the changes and resident Pat Loveless of Ward 4 testified For. Opinion I have heard recently, from Ward 1 residents and from other city residents, remained overwhelmingly Against.

Please contact me if you have questions or concerns about any of this.

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