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Is it time for Greenfield to change to a City Charter?

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Pat Hays

By Pat Hays
Guest Columnist

In 1978, a group of concerned citizens, not happy with the then current administration, proposed that Greenfield consider a City Charter. A vote was held, and a Charter Commission was established to draw up a charter to govern the municipality. 

The members of the commission included: Lowell McNeil, David Moon, Jeff Pollard, George Waddell, John “Jack” Collins, Clarence Ebersole, Sara J. Anderson, Glenn Penn, Glenn Doan, MD, Jack Flynn, Jane Curren, Paul Narcross Jr., James Miller and Harold Tudor.
The proposed charter was submitted to the electorate in the November 1979 election, and it was defeated. In my recollection, the main grievance with the charter was the appointment of a city finance director, thus ending the tenure of a very popular city auditor and her assistant.

Then in 2006 or 2007, another group of individuals, very unhappy with the then mayor-council form of government, pushed a ballot initiative for the elimination of that form of government and replacing it with a “city manager” form of government. 

It’s important to note that the proposed new form of government was in use in less than three or four municipalities in the entire state. All of the remaining entities that had city managers were under a Charter. 

The issue passed, and the old form of government went away. The auditor, treasurer, law director and mayor, all elected positions, were done away with. It’s interesting to note that the organizers promised that a “charter form of government” would be presented to voters soon after the change.

Now, we have another group of electors who want to do away with the current form of government and revert to a mayor-council. The group is very passionate about their stance and have brought up some very credible reasons to again change the form of government.

I think it’s time again to consider a Charter for Greenfield. The majority of the current committee’s grievances can best be addressed with a Charter. The council-manager form of government is the fastest-growing form of government in the United States today. It’s also the most prevalent – it’s used by more cities, villages, townships and counties than any other form.

The Ohio City and County Management Association (OCMA) says the council-manager plan is “a system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials (the governing body) with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The governing body is commonly known as the council – it may also be referred to as the commission or board. The council-manager form establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected council and where the council hires a professionally trained manager to oversee the delivery of public services."
OCMA further states that, “In council-manager government, the mayor or chairperson of the governing body and council members are the leaders and policy makers elected to represent the community. They focus on policy issues that are responsive to citizens’ needs and wishes. 

"The manager is appointed by the governing body to carry out policy and ensure that the entire community is being served. If the manager is not responsive to the governing body’s wishes, the governing body has the authority to terminate the manager at any time. In that sense, a manager’s responsiveness is tested daily.” See for a more detailed explanation.

The Charter Commission can authorize the number of council members – whether they are elected at-large or in combination with ward council members – and the commission can set their terms. They also appoint the city manager and finance director, two positions that require specialized talent and training. 

The full weight of the operation of the village rests with council, carried out by the city manager. And a Charter can be amended at any time as the town progresses.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s put together a charter for our great town.

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