PIQUA — Reactions were mixed Tuesday evening during the Piqua City Commission neeting after the commission heard the first reading of an ordinance authorizing the submission of a proposed amendment to the Piqua Charter in regard to how the mayor is elected.
The proposed amendment re-establishes how the mayor is chosen. Instead of the public electing someone to that specific position, the city commissioners will elect the mayor every two years. The city commissioners will also elect a vice mayor every two years. Only commissioners will be eligible to be mayor or vice mayor.
“This ordinance comes before you at the request of the commission,” City Attorney Stacy Wall said. Wall said that during previous elections, including the most recent one, “there has been great confusion, it appears, at how the mayor is elected.”
Wall pointed out that there have been at least three mayoral elections in recent years in which the person who received the most votes for mayor did not receive the most votes for the commissioner seat as well. That kept them from being elected mayor and joining the commission, as Piqua’s mayor needs to be elected a commissioner before being elected mayor.
“This is actually how it was pre-1975,” Wall said about having the commission elect the mayor every two years. “This reverts back to that original way.”
“I don’t like this ordinance,” Al Fledderman of Piqua said. “I think this takes the right of the vote for the citizens away … I don’t think confusion is a reason for changing (the charter).”
Commissioner Bill Vogt said that the mayor position is ceremonial only.
“The only thing that she can do is perform a wedding ceremony,” Vogt said. “She is not a tie-breaker.”
Vogt added later that each member of the commission has a good relationship with one another, which will contribute to them picking the mayor fairly.
“It’s not stonewalling anybody,” Vogt said about the proposed amendment. “I think think this is the correct way to do it.”
“(In) three of the last five elections … the person who became mayor was not voted mayor,” Commissioner Joe Wilson said. “The voters are not voting for the mayor correctly … This would take that out.”
Wilson explained that they tried to get the information out to the public about the correct way to elect the mayor, but the information is not sticking with some of the residents. The goal of the proposal would be to address that confusion.
Bradley Boehringer of Piqua said he was in favor of this proposed amendment, but questioned what would happen if the commission voted the same person in year after year.
“Every two years, you would have an opportunity to run,” Wilson said. “Some of us don’t ever want to be mayor.”
The commission still received some resistance from the public. Resident Thomas Beck questioned why the charter was changed in 1975. Wall explained that they were unable to find the original charter language, possibly due to a fire many years ago, but after hearing from community members who were there during that time, it was believed that the commission elected a mayor that the public did not want.
“That could happen again,” Beck said, later adding, “The electorate needs to educate itself.”
Beck stated he thought this proposed amendment was a “slippery slope” and that it would “take something away from the people and put it into the hands of the few.”
“If you vote for the commissioners, you are voting for the mayor,” Commissioner Judy Terry said when the first reading came to a close.
If approved after three readings, the proposed amendment will be submitted to the Miami County Board of Elections for Piqua residents to vote on during the November General Election. If approved by voters, the change will commence in 2018 and take place every two years after.
Also in new business, the commission approved the sale of city-owned property at 110 E. Ash St. The Piqua Improvement Corporation — a non-profit Community Improvement Corporation — is seeking to purchase the location, which is currently vacant. The Piqua Improvement Corporation wants to purchase it in order to facilitate future economic development. The sale price for the property is $56,500.
The commission also approved two ordinances after holding each of their third readings. The first ordinance will make minor changes to Chapter 51 of the Piqua Municipal Code in regard to sewers. The changes will make the ordinance compliant with the Ohio Administrative Code.
The second ordinance passed was the submission of a proposed amendment to the Piqua Charter to the Miami County Board of Elections to be put on the ballot for the November General Election. This proposed amendment relates to when the commission is allowed to exit their public meeting and go into executive session. If approved by voters, the amendment will change the charter to allow the commission to go into executive session to discuss economic development, matters of security or emergency protocols, and anything else authorized by the Ohio Revised Code.
The commission also heard the first reading of a new ordinance that will amend Chapter 152: Historic Preservation of the city of the Piqua Code of Ordinances. It will amend the boundaries of the Downtown Historic District to include additional properties eligible to participate in and receive Community Development Block Grant Tier II Funds.
• A resolution retaining the service of HORAN to provide health insurance consulting services for the city. The contract will be for an additional three years at a cost of $2,750 per month.
• A resolution for a contract with Studio Graphique for design services for the Citywide Wayfinding Plan. The contract is not to exceed $24,790.
• A resolution appointing Mayor Kazy Hinds to the Governing Board of the Piqua Improvement Corporation.
• An emergency ordinance adopting a supplement to the Code of Ordinances from the American Legal Publishing Corporation of Cincinnati, which includes updated section in accordance with the changes of Ohio law.
• A resolution authorizing the city manager to submit an application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for funding for the Mote Park restroom renovations project.
The commission also went into executive session Tuesday evening.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall