PIQUA — Next week, the Piqua City Commissioners will be voting on a proposed amendment to send to the Miami County Board of Elections for residents to vote on that could potentially change how the mayor is elected in Piqua.
The following are five things that residents should be aware of heading into the next commission meeting:
• How the mayor is currently elected
In order to be elected mayor in Piqua, one must first be elected a city commissioner. When residents are unaware that they need to vote twice for the candidate they want to be mayor — once for the candidate’s commission seat and another time for the mayor seat — the person who ends up with the most votes for mayor may not actually become mayor. Since 2000, there have been at least four elections in which that happened.
During the most recent commission meeting, commissioner Joe Wilson pointed out that does not happen in every election, but it seems to happen during elections in which the candidates running for mayor are also from the same ward. When candidates from the same ward are running for mayor, the ballot seems to give the false impression that voters can vote for one candidate to be the commissioner of that ward and the other candidate to be the mayor. The reality is that only one candidate is actually able to be elected and that candidate will act as both commissioner and mayor.
• The recent charter committee
Each of the commissioners asked someone from their ward to be a member of a recent charter committee to examine ways to fix this issue surrounding how the mayor is elected. Many of the commissioners chose someone who would have a vested interest in seeing this problem solved; for example, Mayor Kazy Hinds asked Gary Koenig to be a part of the committee. Koenig was Hinds’ opponent during last year’s mayoral election, and he actually won the majority of the votes for mayor during that election. Hinds won the majority of the votes for commissioner by fewer than 30 votes.
The committee was given the criteria that the commission needs to stay at five members, the mayor must also be a commissioner, and the voters must not have to vote twice for a candidate. The committee presented three ideas during a worksession in April, including redistricting the city into four wards and having the mayor being elected at-large, having the commission elect the mayor among themselves, or having the commissioner with the most votes be the mayor.
The commission decided that the first idea and the third idea were not feasible. The first idea would end up putting two people from the same ward on the commission, one as a commissioner and the other as the mayor. The city would also have to go through the redistricting process again. The third idea was decided that it was not necessarily fair to the commissioners as not every commissioner wants to be mayor.
The commission decided to pursue the idea of having residents only elect the commissioners and then have the commission would elect a mayor among themselves.
• The proposed changes to the charter
The proposed amendment re-establishes how the mayor is chosen. Instead of the public electing someone to that specific position, the commissioners will elect the mayor every two years. The commissioners will also elect a vice mayor every two years. Only sitting commissioners will be eligible to be mayor or vice mayor.
“That option actually goes to pre-1975 when the charter was amended at that time,” City Attorney Stacy Wall said at the last commission meeting. At previous meetings, Wall explained that the charter was changed in 1975 due to the residents not approving of whom the commission elected as mayor.
The commission itself would be left at five members. The differences between the mayor and the rest of the commissioners would stay the same and would be that the mayor could perform wedding ceremonies, would receive a slightly higher pay, and act as the official head of the city for all ceremonial purposes.
“The reason for this is trying to eliminate the confusion among the voters on having to vote twice,” Wilson said at the previous commission meeting.
• What the commission is really voting on
While a change to the Piqua City Charter is under discussion, the commission cannot change the charter without the approval of residents. The commission is actually voting on whether or not to send the amendment of the charter to the Miami County Board of Elections to be placed on the November ballot, where residents can vote on it. Residents will be able to decide for themselves how they want to their government head to be elected.
The proposed amendment is currently in the form of an ordinance that is still before the commission. The ordinance has undergone two readings since May 17. If approved after their third readings at their next meeting on June 21, the proposed amendment will be submitted to the Board of Elections. If approved by voters in November, the change will commence in 2018 and take place every two years after.
• Feedback is desired
Whether they support this change or they do not, residents are encouraged to contact their commissioners in order to let them know what they think.
“I think we’d like to hear from people what their view is on this,” Wilson said in an interview. “The voters will decide in either case … we really haven’t received a lot of input on it.”
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall