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Charter Review Committee Recommends Nine-Member District-At-Large Council

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Charter Review Committee Recommends Nine-Member District-At-Large CouncilPhoto by Walker Evans.
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The Charter Review Committee, charged last September with the task of assessing and developing a recommendation for the composition and operations of Columbus City Council, released its recommended legislation this week. If approved, a “District-At-Large” form of council would be implemented, vacancy appointments would see a longer, more public process, and every resident would have access to an area commission.

The committee’s District-At-Large recommendation would split Columbus into nine districts. From each one would come one councilmember, elected by everyone in the city, but competing only with other candidates from the same district. Elections would continue to be nonpartisan and include an elimination primary.

It’s similar to a proposal knocked down by voters in a special election last August — Issue 1, which aimed to add six members to the current seven-member council, with three elected at-large and 10 elected by district. The day voting started on the charter amendment, Columbus City Council announced its creation of the Charter Review Committee, a move seen as a political ploy by some Issue 1 advocates.

The committee commenced on September 22, 2016 its first of 12 public meetings at city council and several neighborhood recreation centers. Using city data as well as research on the nation’s biggest cities’ council structures, the committee developed the nine-member District-At-Large council as “a possible way to enhance Council-community relations,” according to the committee’s final report.

Emphasizing the importance of transparency and public involvement to community perception of council, the committee aimed to address the “power of incumbency” that was a concern to community members, as well as the “power of local party politics and structures” that some committee members believed had an impact on interim appointments.

Their solution would be to extend the timeline in which vacancies are filled from 30 to 45 days. The extension includes time for at least one public hearing before an appointment is made by City Council — and it can’t occur on the same day the vacancy is filled.

Public input is a continuing theme in their recommendations, which also include creating a Commission on Area Commissions some time this year to strengthen citizen engagement in area commissions and enhance their operations. These suggestions aim to provide area commission coverage for every resident, offer administrative support and “streamline and equalize” the organization and operation of area commissions.

The Charter Review Committee’s legislation will appear before City Council later this month.

Stay tuned to CU for updates.

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