As a member of the Charter Review Committee, I would like to thank The Clarkston News for its Oct. 16 article reprinting portions of the committee’s report recommending council seek voter approval to amend four City Charter provisions. The committee chair was going to request that the News print just such an article next week for the benefit of voters, as it did last May, when it printed the committee’s conclusions regarding the proposed changes.
Citizens should be aware that, for the benefit of voters, we went through many, many drafts in order to try and distill short, easily understood and reasonably impartial explanations for each proposed amendment into those four roughly 100 word “statements of purpose” which you quote. This effort followed a committee public hearing in February to which all citizens were invited to provide their views regarding possible amendments to the four Charter provisions in question.
Your Oct. 16 issue, however, also includes a letter to the editor from Susan Bisio and a “guest viewpoint” by Cory Johnston, both of whom urge a “no” vote on Proposal 1 which would eliminate the so-called “resign to run” requirement for elected city officials. Contrary to the conspiracy theories urged by both commentators, however, this change was proposed by the committee for practical, not partisan, reasons per the committee’s statement. The proposals were unanimously adopted by council including two members whose candidacies were expressly supported by Mrs. Bisio.
Our seven members extensively debated the pros and cons of just clarifying the ambiguous Charter language of Section 4.18, regarding “when” one becomes a candidate, versus eliminating the “resign” requirement entirely. It was a close and difficult choice, but a majority decided the prevailing rationale for “resign to run” is largely inapplicable in our small and essentially volunteer government and attracting and keeping qualified individuals on Council is of greater importance. We were also aware that a couple of other nearby communities had also come to the same conclusion and sought to remove “resign to run” from their Charters.
The amendment provides that, in the event of election to a different office, resignation from the prior position occurs by operation of law, openly and automatically, when sworn in for the new position. This eliminates all of the possible “secret” resignation timing scenarios conjured up toward the end of Ms. Bisio’s letter. Yes, that does mean such newly elected official would participate in a vote on his or her successor for the remainder of the prior position’s term. However, if the voters have chosen to place their confidence in that individual by electing him or her to the new position, then they presumably also trust his or her judgement in that regard.
Mr. Johnston also urges rejecting Proposal 3 which would extend the audit deadline to six months following the close of the fiscal year from the current 90 days. He asserts the purpose for this change may be to avoid possible issues of fiscal irresponsibility prior to elections.
The change has been proposed, however, due to our auditor indicating a thorough and professional audit cannot be accomplished in just 90 days. This fact is reflected in state law which expressly permits six months. Evidently, Mr. Johnston nonetheless prefers expediency over accuracy which would defeat the whole purpose of requiring an outside audit in the first place.
In any event, the reason for placing these proposals before the voters is so they can make the final decision, rather than the committee or council. I would urge that all carefully consider the issues based on the merits rather than on my or others’ rhetoric alone.
Please note the foregoing comments are my own and not on behalf of the committee.
William K. Basinger