MOUNT VERNON — A total of 27 people have so far taken out petitions to run for a seat on the city charter commission, if one is needed.

City voters will decide Nov. 6 whether to form a 15-member commission to possibly write a charter for the city. At the same time, they will vote for members of the commission. If the question does not pass, the commission will not meet.

Petitions with the valid signatures of 50 registered voters are due at the Knox County Board of Elections by Tuesday, Sept. 4. Any registered voter in the city may run, except if they are an elected city official. Council members, for example, cannot run for the commission.

Of those 27, six had filed their petitions by Wednesday. Those six are Gordon Yance of New Gambier Road, Michael Hillier of East Sugar Street, Kenneth R. Reynolds of Greenbrier Drive, Todd Hawkins of Kester Drive, Inge Krajenski of East High Street and Randy Cronk of Spruce Street.

Other people with petitions out are Kathleen Hursh of Teryl Drive, Don Carr of Upland Terrace, David Randall (no address listed), Gary Koester of Eastgate Drive, Jeffrey P. Harris of Woodlake Trail, Christina Hamilton of Mulberry Street, Susan Simpson of Dennison Street, Michael Percy of Greenbrier Drive, Sam Filkins of East High Street, Clint Bailey of East Vine Street, Jeffrey Scott of New Gambier Road, Thomas Glibert of Fox Chase Drive, Chip McConville of North McKenzie Street, Kathy Elliott Pullins of East High Street, Bruce Malek of Dixie Drive, Tanner S. Salyers of East Lamartine Street, Carrie Hyman of Howard Street, Mark Furman of East High Street, Jody L. Pritchard of West Walnut Street, Julia M. Warga of East Sugar Street and Cindy Cunningham of Woodlake Trail.

An outline of the ensuing process was provided by the law firm of Zashin and Rich, which has extensive experience in advising municipalities on the development and implementing of charters. How frequently it meets will be determined by the commission.

If the commission meets, it first has to study the charter issue and decide if a charter should be written. That might take a couple months, but then, if they propose a charter, it must be done in time for it to be voted on at a municipal election within the next year.

It can be voted on a early as the primary election, but more realistically it is usually the next General Election, so the commission has until the August deadline for placing a question of the November ballot to complete its work.

Some petitioners are encountering some confusion among voters in the issue. Tanner Salyers said he had to explain the issue to about half the people he has approached for signatures.

“There seems to be a lot of misconceptions out there. Some seem to think it creates a new board, some kind of ‘super council’ that will always be out there, or it automatically brings in a city manager,” Salyers said. “I think some have been misled about what a charter will do.”

Salyers said we could start with a basic system and alter it over time. He is committed to looking at charters from other cities to see what has worked.

“I’m running because I think it’s time to modernize city government and operate more efficiently,” he said.

Jody Pritchard said she is trying to win a seat because “if we are going to have a charter, I want to be on the commission to write it.”

She has some general issues of concern, such as maybe how the police chief is appointed.

She said she has encountered some confusion among voters, mostly because they don’t know anything about it.

“I think a lot of people don’t read the paper, so things come as a big surprise,” she said.

Mike Hillier said collecting signatures for this was harder than any council race or even when he ran for mayor.

“Some people think that if they vote for the commission members they’re showing support for a charter, or they think if it passes we’ll automatically have a charter,” he said.

He had to explain the process and that even if they don’t want a charter they should have voice in who writes it.

“I still think the process is too quick and there are too many questions. But I want to be part of the conversation and there might be good things a charter can accomplish,” Hillier said.

 

Chuck Martin: 740-397-5333 or cmartin@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews

 

 

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