Crestwood Board of Aldermen again considers placing charter proposals on ballot

By BURKE WASSON

After Crestwood citizens were denied the chance in April to vote on five proposed changes to the City Charter, they could finally have their say in November.

The Board of Aldermen was scheduled Tuesday night — after the Call went to press — to decide whether to place the recommendations of the city’s Charter Review Commission on Crestwood’s Nov. 7 general election ballot.

The Charter Review Commission originally introduced its proposals in November to aldermen, and the board voted in January to place them on the April 4 general election ballot. The proposed changes include eliminating term limits for aldermen, reducing the number of signatures needed for a recall of the mayor or an alderman, adding a censure provision for elected officials who violate the charter as opposed to dismissing them from office, modernizing the charter’s language and reducing the number of signatures needed for a referendum initiative.

Ironically, those proposed changes were removed from the ballot with the establishment of such a petitioners’ referendum committee on Jan. 10. The formation of this committee of five citizens blocked voters from deciding on the changes. The group was charged with gathering 12 percent — roughly 1,125 signatures — of the city’s registered voters to sign the petition for the amendments to go back to aldermen for further review.

The petitioners’ committee, however, did not report any signatures to the city.

Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland, who also served last year as a member of the Charter Review Commission, said he believes it is very crucial to the wishes of voters to allow them to vote on these issues.

But if that effort is thwarted again by the establishment of another petitioners committee, Bland said he would be among the first in line to voice his displeasure.

“I think there are enough people out there in the community that kind of saw what happened with this last go-round,” he said. “And if that were to be done again … boy, I’d think there’d be a big outcry.”

While Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby said he also believes that the proposed changes to the charter should be voted on by residents, he would like to see them do it at a later date — April to be exact.

Roby’s concern is that the city would unnecessarily spend funds to place the proposed charter amendments on the November general election ballot because there are no aldermanic races until April.

“My only concern is that if the city is going to have to pay money to put it on the November ballot because we don’t have anything else on the ballot, then we’d almost be better off waiting until the April election to put it on,” Roby said Saturday. “Otherwise, there is a cost to the city. It’s my understanding there’s a cost to the city, and I may be wrong on that. But the last time we had an election, I think it was like $10,000 is what it cost to put an issue on the ballot. And if there’s nothing else on the ballot, then we’d be paying $10,000 just to get this on. Whereas if we waited until April, then it could go on with the aldermanic issues and then the cost would be basically covered. This is a question I’m going to ask, and I’m sharing it with you before the board meeting.”

Board President and Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said he is also weighing the April election while considering when to place the proposed charter amendments on the ballot. But his reasoning is exactly the opposite of Roby’s as Miguel said he would like to see voters decide on the charter amendments in November so that the issues won’t get mixed in with the aldermanic election in April.

“I guess my feeling is that if the charter amendments are going to be on a ballot, then I would prefer to see it in November so as not to muddy up the race in April,” Miguel said Saturday. “Other aspects of it, I’m still mulling over and haven’t really made up my mind on other aspects of the issue. I feel that it would be better to have the charter amendments as separate ballot issues rather than have the aldermanic race get mixed up in that. I think it’s important that the charter amendment issues be explained to the public as well as possible. That the aldermen, if they wish, can speak to those particular issues and that they not get mixed up as part of the race for alderman next April.”

With these three aldermen sharing three different responses to the issue of voting on the charter amendments, Bland, Roby and Miguel do all agree on one thing — letting Crestwood voters have a chance to decide for themselves if the charter should be changed.

Bland said he realizes that people were caught up in the issue of whether to eliminate term limits for aldermen, but also wants to let voters know that the Charter Review Commission is merely asking questions and not telling people how to vote.

“We’re not saying vote for term limits or vote against term limits,” Bland said. “All we’re saying is this election in April was really the first time where term limits came into effect and had impact on the city. And is it a good thing or is it a bad thing? If it’s a good thing, then by all means vote against abolishing term limits. If you think, though, that term limits are something … they were very vogue 10 years ago. Maybe they’re not anymore. And it was just kind of an opportunity to let citizens voice their opinions. If the opinion hasn’t changed from then, then that will not pass.”

One member of the petitioners committee that stopped the amendments from getting on the April ballot — Roger Anderson — has said that he is against the idea of eliminating term limits.

Anderson and fellow committee member Robert Beck both told the Call they did not personally attempt to gather any signatures whatsoever, and member Bob Deutschmann has publicly criticized the charter recommendations in recent months at both Board of Aldermen and town-hall meetings. Frank Spinner and Jacqueline Stock-hausen rounded out the committee, and Beck has said that Crestwood resident and former state Rep. Jim Murphy also worked with the group. Murphy has denied any such affiliation, but has also said that he is against eliminating term limits.

The charter states that aldermen are limited to serve three consecutive three-year terms.

But whether such a petitioners committee is formed again, aldermen said they are aware of Section 13.8 of the Charter, which states: “The Board of Aldermen shall by ordinance submit such proposed amendments to the voters at the next general election.”

Roby said he would love to see the people decide on the issues, but if aldermen can save some money for the city this year, he would rather delay those ballot expenses until April.

“I fully believe the people have the right to vote on it,” Roby said. “But why pay money for something if we can wait ’til April and it won’t cost us as much?”