City Council rejects charter amendments

Amanda Garrett

Kent City Council unanimously rejected yesterday city charter amendments presented by a citizen’s committee to put items on the November ballot to change the council’s voting process and number of members.

Nancy Hansford, a member of the Committee for Fair Representation, read a letter urging council to make voting for council members nonpartisan and change the number of the city’s wards from six to four.

“It is the right thing to do,” she said. “It was recommended to you by the Charter Review Commission, which you appointed. The citizens of Kent deserve the opportunity to vote on these issues. This is a fundamental American right, which you could not possibly disagree with. You would appear to the citizens of Kent that if you do not put these issues on the ballot that you are trying to protect your own jobs as council members.”

The first issue the committee wanted on the ballot was a proposal to make council elections nonpartisan, Hansford said. The committee wanted to make the change because the vast majority of Kent voters – more than 73 percent – are registered independents. Only 8.8 percent of Kent voters participated in the primary elections, Hansford said.

The committee members want to change the number of wards because Kent’s original charter called for four ward positions, and the council arbitrarily changed it to six, Hansford said.

“The voters of Kent have not voted for this change,” she said. “They are entitled to do so.”

Council members rejected the proposals with little comment.

“We just encourage them to put the initiative out for signatures if they want to make the changes,” Ward 3 Councilman Wayne Wilson said.

Committee members will need 1,580 signatures, or 10 percent of Kent voters, to put the amendments on the ballot.

In other business, Ward 4 Councilman John Kuhar asked the Streets, Sidewalks and Utilities Committee to look into the lack of sidewalks around Whitehall Terrace Apartments on Summit Street. Residents and students have complained to him that they feel unsafe in the area, Kuhar said.

“They told me that they feel like Kent and KSU does not value their safety,” he said.

Council also voted to extend the bargaining agreements for several groups of city employees to June 30. The groups included were: The Fraternal Order of Police, Officer Unit; The Fraternal Order of Police, Civilian Employee Unit; The Fraternal Order of Police, Dispatch Employee Unit; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 379 and all classified and various unclassified workers.

Contact public affairs reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].