North Olmsted Charter Amendments on November Ballot

For the upcoming general election, North Olmsted voters will be asked to consider four changes to the city’s Charter. A Charter is the constitution of a city. It is enacted by a vote of the people to establish local self- government. It sets forth the framework for government, establishes its responsibilities and defines its authority.

Learn more about these proposed amendments below and make an informed decision on Election Day.

Issue 19

Shall Article I of the Charter of the City of North Olmsted be amended to eliminate procedures for detachment of lands that are in conflict with the general law procedures established in the Ohio Revised Code?

Explanation: If you want the detailed legal explanation, scroll down. Otherwise, here is what Issue 19 deals with:

The City has an outdated section of its Charter that impermissibly conflicts with the Ohio Revised Code. It deals with “detachment of lands.” A “detachment of lands” is the legal process for property in North Olmsted to “break away” from the territorial boundaries of the City and either (1) form a new city or township or (2) attach to a current township. An example would be if property owners decided to leave North Olmsted and go to Olmsted Township. It is a very rare occurrence, to say the least. There is a detailed procedure for its approval laid out in the Ohio Revised Code. The Constitution of the State of Ohio leaves that procedure solely up to the laws enacted by the State Legislature.

This issue is on the ballot on November 3, 2020 because the Charter also sets forth its own process for “detachment of lands” that includes a vote of the people when somebody wants to take their land and leave. Because the State legislature’s procedure does not include a vote of the people in the process, the North Olmsted Charter has an invalid provision that is unconstitutional. It unlawfully attempts to claim authority granted exclusively to the State Legislature.

The proposal simply aims to follow the law and constitution by eliminating the conflicting language. Are we likely to see “detachment” come up in the future? Probably not. When the Charter Review Commission members see a problem, it is their job to send it to the voters for their consideration.

Now the long, legal explanation…

Ohio Constitution, Art. XVIII, §2, provides that “[g]eneral laws shall be passed to provide for incorporation and governance of cities and villages….” Acknowledging that provision, the City of North Olmsted, in adopting its Charter, expressly incorporates such general laws with respect to its territorial boundaries:

The municipal corporation now existing and known as the City of North Olmsted, in the County of Cuyahoga and State of Ohio, shall continue to be a body politic and corporate under the same name and with the same boundaries, with power and authority to change its boundaries and annex other territory contiguous thereto in the manner authorized by the general laws of the State of Ohio; but no territory shall be detached therefrom, nor shall the City be annexed to any other municipality without the consent of the Council and of a majority of its electors voting on such question.

See North Olmsted Charter Art. I.

North Olmsted’s constitutional grant of authority is qualified by the fact that its exercise of power cannot conflict with the general laws of Ohio. See Ohio Constitution Art. XVIII, §3. Concerning annexation, merger and detachment, the General Assembly has passed comprehensive general laws of statewide application governing every form of annexation, merger, and detachment and set those laws out in Chapter 709 of the Ohio Revised Code. These laws vary depending on the circumstances, but typically require legislative approval as well a majority vote of electors. Accordingly, Chapter 709 of the Ohio Revised Code, establishing the conditions and processes on matters of merger, detachment and acquisition, will control over local regulations. See Schultz v. Upper Arlington, 88 Ohio App. 281 (2nd Dist., 1950) (holding that Charter provision, which required popular vote on annexation ordinance, was void as beyond powers of local self-government).

With that in mind, the second clause of City Charter, Art. I, which indicates, “but no territory shall be detached therefrom, nor shall the City be annexed to any other municipality without the consent of the Council and of a majority of its electors voting on such question” conflicts with R.C. §709.38 because the revised code does not provide for voter approval of a petition for detachment of municipal territory. This City Charter provision, purporting to secure the vote of electors on detachment, impermissibly conflicts with the revised code.

This amendment, if approved, will remove this unconstitutional conflict. The Charter Review Commission appreciated that a “detachment of lands” scenario is unlikely to arise, but believed that good stewardship of our laws necessitated that it be presented to the voters for their consideration.

Read full text of proposed amendment.

Issue 20

Shall Article IV, Section 7 of the Charter of the City of North Olmsted be amended to authorize the City Council to meet at such times and at such locations and/or via electronic methods in accordance with rules, regulations, ordinances or by-laws adopted by Council?

Explanation: Charter Art. IV §7, “The Council; Meetings” provides in pertinent part as follows:

1. a) Regular Meetings. The Council shall meet in the Council chambers at such times as may be prescribed by its rules, regulations, ordinances or by-laws, however, not less than twice during each calendar month, excepting that Council may provide for its vacation, during the months of July or August, and during such period is subject to the call of the Mayor. (Emphasis added).

The requirement of where and how often Council meetings take place is immoveable: twice a month in Council Chambers, with no exceptions.  The Charter has no provision for cancellation or relocation of the City Council meeting due to public emergencies like the COVID-19 / Coronavirus pandemic.

This proposal will remove from the Charter the requirement to meet in the Council Chambers, twice a month, and place the authority to set the location (including electronic, virtual meetings), and frequency of City Council meetings in the hands of the City Council elected representatives to be set by rule, regulation or ordinance.

If approved, this Charter change will afford flexibility in scheduling and conducting City Council meetings.

Read full text of proposed amendment.

Issue 21

Shall Article XV of the Charter of the City of North Olmsted be amended to establish that Charter Review Commission member appointments be made prior to January 1st, and to further require that the Charter Review Commission’s final report be submitted to the City Council not later than May 31st in the year of review?

Explanation: Every five (5) years, the Charter Review Commission is obligated to assemble and review the Charter of the City of North Olmsted. The Charter is our local version of a constitution. The review culminates with a recommendation to the City Council, which recommendation may include changes to the Charter.

This proposal is essentially a housekeeping measure concerning the Charter Review Commission. The Commission wanted to make clear that the members need to be in place and ready to do the work of the Commission prior to January 1st and that, once in place, they need to wrap up their work by May 31st. That, in turn, would give the City Council time to review the end product and then decide on what recommendations will be presented to the voters of the City for consideration at the November election.

Read full text of proposed amendment.

Issue 22

Shall Article XV of the Charter of the City of North Olmsted be amended to authorize the City Council to establish, by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of its members eligible to vote, that any public meeting by a public body may be conducted via teleconference, video conference, or any other similar electronic technology, provided citizen access to such meetings is ensured and open meetings laws, including notifications, are otherwise followed?

Explanation: The COVID-19 / Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 compelled new thinking about how government functions in the face of a public health emergency. Faced with the emergency, the City of North Olmsted was limited, by virtue of the Charter and Ohio law at the time, in its ability to react to the ever-evolving public health crisis and its impact on conducting public meetings.

The City Council, Planning and Design Commission, Building and Zoning Board of Appeals and Board of Control, to mention a few, meet at City Hall. Because of COVID-19 / Coronavirus pandemic, City officials struggled to conduct public meetings safely until the State of Ohio passed a temporary, emergency measure allowing for on-line, or virtual meetings. That state law will expire in the near future.

Issue 22, if approved, allows the City, as opposed to the State, to authorize public meetings in an electronic format if five (5) of seven (7) City Council members concur. This includes telephone conferences or a format similar to Zoom or GoToMeeting. It should be noted that this format, if approved, is not be limited to emergency situations. It is intended to allow the City Council flexibility today, during the pandemic, and in the future, when in the discretion of the City Council it is determined that such meeting format would best serve the public interest.

If Issue 22 is approved and Council authorizes the meeting format, all of the requirements of Open Meetings Laws must be followed. Public participation, if permitted in the traditional, in-person meeting format for that public body, will be afforded the public in an electronic format.

Read full text of proposed amendment.

North Olmsted Ballot information from: www.north-olmsted.com/announcement/charter-amendments-on-november-ballot/

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