London Mayor David Eades is urging council to change the way the city is governed.
At his annual State of the City address Thursday, Jan 2, Eades encouraged the city council to consider moving from a statutory form of government to a charter form of government.
“There are various forms of government available by using a charter, and I am told it is more flexible as you write your own laws, but they still have to follow guidelines as established the state and federal government,” Eades told council. “The real question is what would be best for the city of London. I suggest council establish a committee and look into the matter.”
A charter city can be creative in writing its own rules of governance to include in its charter, within the confines of the state and national laws.
Cities which have not adopted a charter are organized by state statute.
Eades explained council could eliminate elected positions such as the law director and auditor, to be replaced with contracted employees. Additionally, he explained, the safety service director could be replaced by a city manager.
He said council would have more authority and financial flexibility for many positions in the city.
“If the person was not performing up to council’s expectations, the person could be terminated and replaced by the hiring authority, be it city council or the mayor…” Eades said.
He added, “It would all be determined by if a charter government was adopted and how it was organized into a government.”
The mayor said if council decided to attempt to change form of government, “it would possibly take a couple of years to get through the process and two elections to complete everything.”
City residents would ultimately determine if the city adopted a charter form of government,.
“This council should take a look and determine if the time is right to approach the citizens of London and pose the question to them,” Eades said.
For the question of a change in government to be placed on the ballot, two-thirds of council must agree to take it to the voters, or a petition with 10 percent of city electors must be presented.
Eades said voters would also vote on a 15-member commission to draft the new city charter.
“As we begin 2014 with a newly elected council, we always have some time getting acclimated and moving along.
Eades encouraged council members, especially the three new members, to take advantage of government training classes offered by the Ohio Municipal League
“I believe that you will find that in actuality city government operates a little different than what you were taught in high school,” Eades said. “Maybe that is because when I went to school back in the ’50s, they taught it a little different back then. I always tell every new council if you have questions or suggestions come in or call we are here to do the city business and make London the best that we can.”
Eades said the new council had an opportunity to address some issues facing the city for many years. He cited a report prepared in 2008, outlining the need for a citywide levy.
“This list was not a wish list; it was a list of needs. And these needs still exist,” Eades said. “Council did get it on the ballot and it failed. But the needs at that time are still with us and things have deteriorated further in the past five years. I am sure this new council has some ideas for the improvement of the city, but I ask that you consider some of the items that was brought forth to the public when we first ran the levy request in the spring of 2009.”
He encouraged city officials to consolidate operations in the former middle school building. He said plans to do so had been halted in the past because there was no money.
“This lack of funds has caused some budget crunch over the last few years,” Eades told council. “Now that the economy is coming back, although slowly, and we are generating some income at the facility…hopefully some things will smooth out. The community center is a valuable asset for the community and moving the city offices into the old elementary building would make it a one-stop shop for the citizens. I believe we could save on utilities with everything in one location rather than many sites throughout the city.”
In his address to council, Eades touched on many of the city departments and the needs of each.
He said it would cost nearly $1-million to bring the city police force where it needed to be.
“Even though this amount may seem somewhat staggering, to prepare for the future it is an option we must explore, especially if we wish to follow the city motto ‘A proud heritage and a promising future,’” the mayor said.
Eades also stressed the value of a strong parks and recreation department.
“It must be understood that parks and recreation is essential to the success of the city and to the safety of the community,” he said. “Parks and recreation not only provides activities for all ages, lowers crime rates, not only does it keep our families in the town, it provides the amenities that new citizens look for when choosing a community to live, work and play in and purchase a home.”
Eades said many of the departments have been forced to do more with less money from the city and from the state government.
“Hopefully everyone can see that operating a local government and maintaining our infrastructure is no small or cheap matter,” he concluded.