UH council, mayor spar over charter review commission

The University Heights city council meeting on Sept. 15 will determine whether the city proceeds with a charter review that could eventually lead to a city manager form of government.

At issue is an ordinance establishing a commission to look into updating the city’s charter.  Council members voted 5-2 in favor of the ordinance at the council meeting on Sept. 2. Mayor Beryl Rothschild vetoed it the next day. It was, she said, only the second time she’d taken that action in her three decades as mayor.

Council members will decide whether to override or sustain that veto when they meet Sept. 15.  If the ordinance goes forward, a commission could consider shifting power and control from the mayor’s office to a city manager.

Councilman Frank Consolo proposed the ordinance at the Sept. 2 council meeting, basing the process on one used 30 years ago when the city charter was last reviewed. Heated discussion occurred among council members over how the commission members and chair would be selected. An amended ordinance passed, with Vice Mayor Adele Zucker and Councilman Peter Bernardo voting against the proposal.

Zucker suggested amendments that she later withdrew. “I see no reason for rushing into this,” she said. “All I want is that the public be informed. I think it’s time we slow down.”

As amended, the charter review commission would include eleven members. Each of the seven council members would appoint one, the mayor would appoint one, and the committee of the whole would appoint three.

Council also passed a motion to immediately publicize the ordinance and invite interested residents to provide a letter and resume showing their interest in serving on the commission.

Several residents commented that their only information had come from reading a recent Sun Press article. In a written statement, former councilwoman Win Weizer asked “Why now? In part, that question was answered by councilmen Bullock, Consolo, and Murphy stating their preference for a city manager form of government. To change the governmental structure in University Heights to that form would take a charter change, hence the commission is required.”

Former councilwoman Susan Infeld criticized the move. “It sounds as if some of the council [members] have an agenda, and [the process] isn’t as open as one would like.”

Some residents were supportive. Mary Bondy said, “I know many, many citizens who really want change.”

Sue Pardee is an observer of UH City Council for the League of Women Voters. Fellow observer Wendy Deuring and freelance writer Afi Scruggs also contributed to this article.

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Volume 1, Issue 6, Posted 4:32 PM, 09.04.2008