Six issues are being presented to Kettering residents on the November ballot—one proposed by the city’s Charter Review Committee and five others proposed by a non-partisan, independent group, known as Citizens for a Better Kettering.
Issue 36, proposed by the Charter Review Committee, includes several items ranging from gender-neutral language to removing the requirement that meeting notices be published in the newspaper. The most notable change though, calls for the elimination or reduction of term limits for council members four years after residents approved a Citizens ballot proposal to establish stricter term limits for city council.
Citizens founder Ron Alban said that Kettering residents made their decision four years ago, and that asking them to make it again is “disrespectful.”
“I think council’s effort to undo term limits is disrespectful to the people,” Alban said. “The people thoroughly expressed their will in 2012.”
Alban and Citizens for a Better Kettering are behind Issues 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35 on the ballot. Those issues address charter revisions, lawsuits, council meetings, transparency regarding city salaries, and how to fill council vacancies.
Mayor Don Patterson expressed concern with Issues 31 through 35 and is asking residents to vote in favor of the Charter Review Committee’s proposition, Issue 36.
“Council—we didn’t have any input into it. I don’t really know their (the committee’s) thought process in doing what they did,” Patterson said. “All I did was—as the Charter said—every 10 years, the mayor has to appoint a committee.”
The Charter Review Committee reviews the city’s charter and proposes changes to city council if needed. Those changes then take the form of ballot issues in an election.
“It’s an independent, impartial committee,” Patterson said.
If approved, Issue 36 would allow council members to serve for three consecutive, four-year terms before a mandatory four-year break. It also allows for the mayor to be exempt from term limits. While Patterson favors Issue 36, he said he will also support the election outcome.
“I have the utmost respect for our residents in what they want and what they would like to see,” Patterson said.
“This is something they’re going to decide. I will absolutely support whichever—both, none, or one and not the other—I will absolutely support it because I believe in our residents. Our residents are the strength of our community.”
Patterson, who has served as mayor since 2005, says his next possible election will be his last.
The term limits that were set in 2012 allow for all council members to serve two consecutive, four-year terms before taking a mandatory four-year break. Because they were not retroactive, incumbents, like the mayor, could serve on council until 2022, if re-elected in 2018.
Issue 31, proposed by Citizens, adds language to the existing charter, stating that council cannot propose any charter amendments that could alter any provision in the charter that addresses term limits, compensation or initiative, keeping the 2012 amendment intact.
Another issue raised by Alban’s group comes in the form of council vacancies. Issue 35 would require council to wait until the next general election to fill a vacancy on the council. Currently, the council appoints someone in the interim until the next election.
“A council member not elected by the people is not a bona fide representative of the people,” Alban said. “Vacancies to the U.S. House of Reps (Representatives) have been determined by the people for over 200 years. “We’re proposing the same thing be done for our Kettering council.”
One Kettering resident understands what the possible changes could mean for the city’s government.
Resident Steven Weiser said that having the same elected officials in place for 12 possible years provides continuity and that if the charter remained at two consecutive terms for council members, there’s a shorter window for goals to be accomplished.
“I can see the benefit of having them because somebody might get a substantial amount of work done in 12 years,” said Weiser, who is leaning toward voting “yes” on Issue 36.
If Issues 31 and 36 pass, both could go into effect according to the City of Kettering Law Director Ted Hamer.
“I don’t see that they would be in opposition to each other. It seems to me they could both coexist,” Hamer said.
“Assuming both would pass, they would both go into effect. The Charter would be amended as far as the term limit piece goes in (Issue) 36 and then 31 would say ‘Okay you can’t amend the Charter, City Council, any more, regarding term limits or pay’ or whatever else 31 says they can’t do,” Hamer said.