PIQUA —The committee that reviewed the portion of the Piqua charter surrounding the mayor seat gave its recommendations to the Piqua City Commission during the commission’s worksession Thursday evening.
The committee was brought together to examine the city’s charter closely and consider possible ways to update the charter to eliminate confusion surrounding how the mayor is elected. The current city charter mandates that in order to be elected mayor, the candidate must first be elected a commissioner. That has been the deciding factor in the recent local elections in the years 2015, 2011, 2007, and 2003, according to City Attorney Stacy Wall.
The committee and Wall found that the way that the city currently elects the mayor is unique to Piqua. Wall explained that prior to 1975, the commission elected one of its own members to be the mayor. The title was ceremonial, and the mayor still had the same amount of influence as the rest of the commissioners.
In 1975, there was contention between the commission and the city residents as to who they each wanted to be mayor. According to Wall, the commission did not choose the person the residents wanted to be mayor, so the residents decided that they would elect the mayor themselves.
While the committee provided the commission with three possible options of changing the charter during the commission’s recent worksession, it was a toss-up between two ideas.
The first option was to change the commission to have four commissioners and one mayor.
“However, it would no longer be five wards in the city, it would be four,” Wall said. The city would have to be redistricted to four wards by population, and the mayoral candidates would run at large from any ward.
The second idea was the return to the pre-1975 way electing the mayor. City residents would elect the commissioners, and the commissioners would decide among themselves who would be the mayor. The wards would stay the same.
“This, again, takes away all of those issues on the ballot,” Wall said.
The third idea would also leave the five wards the same with everyone only being a candidate for commissioner, but the candidate who got the most votes would then also be elected mayor. This option was the least favored.
“Not everybody wants to be mayor,” Wall said. “That would probably deter people even more not to run.”
The committee recommended the first option as they believed that the residents would vote for and approve option one, but the committee preferred option two. Wall explained that a possible perception surrounding option two might be that the commission is taking away the residents’ right to elect their mayor.
Commissioner Joe Wilson stated that option one could also have that potential perception as well if a commissioner already in office ran for the mayor seat and was elected. That commissioner’s seat would then be vacant, and the commission would have to elect a replacement for that commissioner’s seat.
Commissioner John Martin explained that he did not want to go with option one, as it would end up putting two people from the same ward on the commission. There would be four wards in the city, a commissioner from each one of those wards, and the mayor would also be from one those wards. Martin explained that if the officials from the same ward happened to “have an agenda,” there might be a potential imbalance of power.
“You load one ward with two votes, and I don’t like that,” Martin said.
Martin added later, “I would like to see option two or nothing … If the citizens don’t like it, then go with what we have.”
“(Option) one would have to redistrict everything again … blend five wards in to four,” Commissioner Judy Terry said. “I don’t think that’s a good idea at all.”
The other commissioners agreed on pursuing option two of changing the charter. From this point, Wall will create an ordinance with the charter change and that ordinance will have to undergo three readings before the commission. If approved by the commission, it will then be submitted to the Miami County Board of Elections and will be placed on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot for residents to vote on.
The members of the charter committee included Gary Koenig, Skip Murray, Roy Moreaux, Tom Hudson, and Dave Martin. Each commissioner asked one resident in their respective ward to be a part of the committee.
At the end of their worksession, the commission went into executive session to consider “pending or imminent litigation,” according to their agenda.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall