Crestwood voters eye charter amendments

Mayor Robinson plans to vote ‘no’ on all five charter proposals

By BURKE WASSON

Nearly a year after Crestwood’s Charter Review Commission submitted three proposed amendments to the Board of Aldermen, residents will vote next week on five charter propositions.

Voters will consider several possible changes to their City Charter when they go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 7.

The proposals include eliminating term limits for aldermen, adding a censure provision for elected officials who violate the charter as opposed to removing them from office, updating and clarifying the charter’s language and reducing the number of signatures needed for initiative, referendum and recall petitions.

The Board of Aldermen voted in May to unanimously approve amendments to an ordinance previously adopted in January and placed the proposed charter changes on the Nov. 7 ballot.

After the board voted in January to place the propositions on the April ballot, the five proposed amendments essentially were blocked from that ballot by a handful of residents who formed a petitioners referendum committee challenging an ordinance calling for residents to vote on those issues in April.

The city’s deadline to have ballot forms to the County Board of Elections for the April election was before the deadline that the referendum committee had to report its signatures. However, that committee — residents Bob Deutschmann, Robert Beck, Jackie Stockhausen, Roger Anderson and Frank Spinner — failed to report any signatures. Anderson and Beck both told the Call they did not personally attempt to gather any signatures whatsoever, and Deutschmann has criticized the charter amendments at past board and town-hall meetings.

Beck previously told the Call that resident and former Rep. Jim Murphy also worked with the group. Murphy has denied all affiliation with the referendum committee, but has also said that he is against eliminating term limits. Crestwood’s charter states that aldermen are limited to serve three consecutive three-year terms.

Mayor Roy Robinson said this week that he is opposed to removing term limits in Crestwood and added that he would be voting against each of the five amendments.

“I plan to vote no on all of them,” Robinson said. “I would probably vote for the one that would do the housekeeping, but they put so many things inside that. I’m going to vote against. And I still think just like the mayor, the aldermen should serve term limits also because it’s refreshing to get new people in.”

The “housekeeping” item that the mayor referred to is Proposition 1 of the five proposed amendments.

Proposition 1 is a proposal to amend several areas of the charter, according to information provided by the City Clerk’s Office. Some of these proposed changes are:

• Deleting a sentence that requires all Board of Aldermen meetings to take place within city limits.

• Changing a new ordinance’s effective date to the day that the mayor approves the new ordinance instead of on the day that aldermen pass the ordinance.

• Allowing the city attorney to appeal if the Board of Aldermen votes to fire that individual.

• Allowing the city administrator to appeal if the Board of Aldermen votes to fire that individual.

• Giving the Board of Aldermen the right to change the city clerk’s employee status from a civil-service employee to a department head.

• Shortening the city’s budget and capital programs from five-year plans to three-year plans.

• Changing the city’s fiscal year to a calendar year instead of beginning on July 1.

• Ensuring that the city’s Charter Review Commission meets at least once every 10 years instead of the current charter language that states “not less than” every 10 years.

Robinson said he believes there are some items among the 18 proposed changes in Proposition 1 that he supports. Instead of voting for 18 changes with one vote, however, he said he would prefer voting on each change as a separate proposition.

“I think we do need the housekeeping items,” Robinson said. “There’s many in there that need to be done if for nothing else just to clean up the charter. However, because so many other things are in there, I think it waters down the others … I think there’s a few in that package that should be voted on separately. And because of that, I’m voting no on it.”

The mayor said he has also not ruled out the possibility of forming another Charter Review Commission to develop new amendments to be voted on in the future.

“If we deem it necessary, we’ll go back and appoint another committee and try it again in the future, whether it be me or another mayor,” Robinson said. “But I think there are probably some things that need to be done and I think they need to be evaluated.”

Other proposals that will be evaluated Tuesday by residents include Proposition 2, which would eliminate term limits for aldermen.

Information provided by the City Clerk’s Office about the proposed amendments stated three reasons that the Charter Review Commission gave for term limits possibly being eliminated are:

• “The long-term effects of term limits were not really known when they were adopted in 1995.”

• “The effects had not yet impacted Crestwood at the time the Charter Review Commission recommended the issue be revisited by voters. (April 2006 was the first election where aldermen had to leave office due to term limits).”

• “Crestwood will face a major turnover on the Board of Aldermen in a short period of time and the Board of Aldermen’s ‘institutional memory’ will be lost.”

Proposition 3 of the proposed charter amendments proposes that censure be added as an option to discipline elected officials who have violated the charter. The proposal was added as a way for elected officials who violate the charter to be reprimanded without being forced to leave office.

The reasons the Charter Review Commission gave for the censure method of discipline are:

• “Censure would be provided as a warning for less egregious offenses.”

• “Add another tool of discipline other than forfeiture of office.”

• “Most charters include censure as a method of reprimand.”

The Charter Review Commission further recommended in Proposition 3 that aldermen adopt a code of conduct that details how and when elected officials who violate the charter should be disciplined.

Proposition 4 calls for reducing the number of signatures required for initiative and referendum petitions from 12 percent of registered voters to 8 percent of registered voters.

That provision originally was proposed by the Charter Review Commission in Proposition 1, but was later given its own proposition number after Robinson said the issue should be placed before voters as a separate issue because it would be a “major change.”

Proposition 5 also reduces the number of signatures required for a petition. But instead of initiative and referendum, Prop 5 calls for reducing required signatures on recall petitions. If passed by voters, Prop 5 would reduce the percentage of signatures required for a recall petition from 20 percent of registered voters to 15 percent of registered voters.

The reasons the Charter Review Commission gave for the proposed signature reduction in Propositions 4 and 5 are:

• “Crestwood’s current percentages are more restrictive than those in other cities.”

• “The percentages for these two sections seemed significantly higher than those required for a petition to amend the charter itself.” Ten percent of registered voters are required for a charter-amendment petition.

• “The percentages are set by ‘all’ registered voters. The percentage of those who vote is significantly lower than those who are registered to vote. Lower percentages of ‘all’ registered voters would more accurately relate to the number of those who regularly participate in political issues and vote.”