Kent voters approve four of five charter amendments


Voters fill the poll booths at the Wellness Center on Tuesday Nov. 3, 2015.

The Portage County Board of Elections posted results early Wednesday morning after a server malfunction Tuesday night.

The ballot included five amendments to the Kent City Charter, which is comparable to the Constitution of the United States or a state’s individual constitution and the most important legal document of any city.

NO on Issue 29 (57.71 percent): Term limits for the Board of Health will not be removed. Term limits will stay at their current limit of two five-year terms.

YES on Issue 30 (52.25 percent): The number of signatures needed for initiative and referendum petitions has been altered. Currently, 10 percent of qualified electors are required. Now, at least 10 percent of the number of electors who voted for governor at the most recent general election for the office of governor.

YES on Issue 31 (83 percent): The prohibition has been removed that states present or former members of the Assessment Equalization Board, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and Charter Review Commission cannot be appointed as a City employee or an independent contractor during their term or for six months afterward.

YES on Issue 32 (70.57 percent): Term limits for the Planning Commission have been removed. Terms were currently limited to two five-year terms.

YES on Issue 43 (64.13 percent): Democracy Day Public Hearing / Political Influence has been added to the city’s charter. The city is now required to sponsor a public hearing in October for Kent residents to examine the impact of political influence resulting from campaign contributions by corporate bodies and discuss issues on that year’s upcoming November ballot.

When the group Kent Citizens for Democracy introduced the initiative to city council this past summer, Kent’s law director, James Silver, questioned the legality of the amendment. According to the Record Courier, Silver said the group did not have enough resident signatures to place the issue on the ballot. Ohio’s state constitution requires a select amount of signatures, but Silver argued the group did not have enough per the city’s laws.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of Kent Citizens for Democracy, which also proposed a ballot initiative entitled “Corporations are not People and Money is not Speech.” The proposed charter amendment, if approved by voters, would have essentially made it illegal for large corporations to lobby money in local elections. City Council voted against the ballot measure after Silver advised members about the city’s ballot laws regarding signatures.

The city is also required to send a letter to state-level representatives, leaders of the Ohio House and Senate, U.S. Congressional representatives and both U.S. senators from Ohio.

Included in the letter will be a brief summary of the public hearing and a statement that the citizens of Kent in Nov., 2015 voted in support of a Citizen’s Initiative calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring one, only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with Constitutional rights; and two, money is not equivalent to speech, and therefore, regulating political contributions and spending does not equate to limiting political speech. 

Rachel Godin is a city reporter and Matt Merchant is a senior reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact Rachel at [email protected], and contact Matt at [email protected]