Do your research on charter proposals

As I mentioned last week, it’s quite possible most voters didn’t feel a need to go to their polling location April 2 because of the lack of competitive races. That can’t happen this time around, so I encourage everyone to take the next few weeks to learn about the candidates and issues that will appear on the general election ballot.

We know the candidates moving on to June 11. We know who is running for mayor and the seven seats to represent the people of Weirton on city council…at least we should. I do occasionally hear someone say they have no idea who their council representative is. That’s a problem.

Weirton’s voters have something else to consider, though, when it comes time to cast their votes June 11, or during the early voting period.

In addition to those seeking office, there will be a series of 11 proposed changes to the city charter appearing on the ballot.

These proposals were first discussed publicly in late February, with council holding its two requisite readings of the ordinances and a public hearing in March. That’s a little quick for my tastes, and I’m sure a lot of people are wondering why this process wasn’t started earlier and given more time for consideration, but this is where we are.

As part of the charter change process, if someone offers an objection to any proposal, it has to go before the voters. All someone has to do is say “I object,” and it goes on the ballot. You don’t actually have to have a reason, just say the words.

That’s what happened here. During the public hearing, objections were offered against only three of the 11 proposals. During the next council meeting, a resident spoke up and said he feels all of the proposals should go before the voters.

Some of these proposals are fairly straightforward.

There is one, for example, which would eliminate the position of city physician. Another would eliminate the positions of city treasurer and city auditor, replacing any references in city code with finance director.

These positions haven’t been used for at least the last 20 years, although it’s probably been much longer.

Another proposal would eliminate references to the parks director position. This is in no way indicating an attempt to get rid of the job. It’s simply an issue where the director of parks in Weirton has been hired by the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation, and not through the appointment and approval of the mayor and city council.

Then there are more complicated issues.

One suggestion wants to change the way individuals appointed to certain positions in the city can be removed from those jobs.

Currently, in addition to a public hearing process, council needs a “super majority” approval for someone to be removed from, let’s say the city manager job as an example. That means five of seven council members need to be in favor of the move. The proposal on the ballot would reduce the number to four members of council.

Then, there is the effort to change the schedule for the city’s election to be more in line with the national election. This would mean moving the next election to 2024, having the primary in May and the general in June. This seems to have had the most debate, and I’m not sure there has been a clear understanding among everyone discussing the issue.

I’m not going to express my own thoughts on whether these charter change proposals should be passed. It’s not up to me. It’s up to the voters of Weirton to make the choice for themselves. So, again, please take the time to learn about these proposals.

You can get copies of them from the city clerk or the city manager’s office. The ordinances are all public record.

Study the proposals, ask questions, learn what they are about and then make your decision as to whether you feel they should be enacted.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)


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