A proposal to lengthen the terms of Wapakoneta City Council members and council president is moving closer to the November general election ballot.
The proposal also gained the support of the city’s top administrator.
Two ordinances received their first reading at Monday’s Wapakoneta City Council meeting — one to lengthen the term of council president to four years from two years and to stagger the term of that office with the mayor and the second to lengthen the terms of councilors to four years from two years and to stagger councilors-at-large with the ward seats.
Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. proposed the changes based on a plan developed by former Council President Don Jump. Finkelmeier supports the changes to double the councilors’ terms in office in order to maintain “the institutional memory of this legislative body.”
Finkelmeier proposed the change in January after every councilor, the council president and the mayor, law director and auditor all had to be re-elected last November.
The change would not affect sitting councilors, but if the measure is passed by voters then it would go into effect in 2013.
Mayor Rodney Metz, who served more than 20 years as a councilor prior to being elected mayor, said the two issues would not affect his term of office but it would affect the effectiveness of council and city government.
“In my time on council, the matter of losing every councilor and the mayor at one election has never come up but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t and then if it does it is too late,” Metz told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “The staggering of terms makes it much easier because you are working with councilors who know the process.
“While council candidate can become better educated by attending meetings, councilors, who have been serving, know the inner workings of council matters and this helps legislation and others issues be resolved much faster for the residents of the city,” he said. “They also know the terminology and the language of the office they hold and how legislation is proposed and passed and the purpose of discussing matters in committee.”
At Monday’s meeting, Councilor-at-large Steve Walter expressed his concern with these two issues passing the electorate since the issues likely will not be discussed further at council meetings after councilors adopt the ordinances and the issues be placed on the ballot.
“I voted for this out of committee because I thought it was wonderful idea,” Walter said. “But I would like to make a general clarification — because Ohio law requires this legislation to be placed on the ballot and decided by the plebiscite, it is not going to get its typical transparency and debate that it would normally receive if it was decided here because it is not going to be decided here, it is going to be decided in the ballot box.”
Walter encouraged residents to come to council meetings to discuss the matter with councilors. He said he was also worried the issue would not receive the attention it deserves by the voters during a presidential year.
Finkelmeier said he encourages the Wapakoneta Area Chamber of Commerce to include the issue as part of their annual “Meet the Candidate” venues.
“I intend not as a councilor but as a private citizen to campaign for these two issues,” Finkelmeier said during Monday’s meeting. “I believe in it and I would not have brought it forth if I did not believe in it. I would be willing to speak anywhere down the election trail on the rationale behind this plan. I intend to go out and garner support for the two issues.”
Finkelmeier learned Monday the two ordinances would have to be placed on the ballot as two distinct ballot issues because they represent changes to two different sections of the Ohio Revised Code.
Wapakoneta 4th Ward Councilor Chad Doll voiced his continued support for the proposal and he would honor his promise to campaign the public for passage of the plan.
The two pieces of legislation are expected to receive second readings on March 5 and are expected to be passed on March 19.