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Lakewood Charter Changes Eyed for November Ballot

City council introduces measure that includes eight amendments to the city's 'law of the land.'

introduced a proposal Tuesday that would include eight changes to the city's Second Amended Charter. 

But they would first need voter approval.

Kevin Butler, the city's law director, said the overall idea is to provide consistency — and modernization — to the language of the charter.

City officials are considering eight changes, but most of the revisions are "housekeeping items," said Butler.

"I think they're good drafting amendments," he said. "They stand more for modernization than anything else."

One of the proposed issues is changing the language of the line of succession of the mayor's office — a recent issue stemming from the election of former-mayor .

No one in the city's line of succession (law director, finance director and so on) wanted to take the post. then-Ward 3 councilman Michael Summers, who is seeking to keep the mayor's office this fall.

The charter amendment would keep the power of mayoral appointment with council should there be an absence in the mayoral post again.

Other proposed changes to the charter include allowing the city to perform any action covered under the state's constitution; providing more flexibility in the posting of public announcements; and including the city's sewer system among municipal improvements supported by millage.

"I don't think any of these changes are controversial," said Butler. 

The Second Amended Charter was approved by voters in November 2000 — which was a complete overhaul of the original charter. Most recently, a charter issue came up again in November 2008, when voters OK'd moving primary elections from September to October.

"We're not making enough changes to make this a new charter, we're just making a few changes," said Butler. "We're not saying 'out with the old and in with the new.' We're just taking a few sections and looking at the language, and we've determined that it doesn't work in modern society — and making those changes. We can only do so, of course, with the voters approval."

"Because it's the charter and it's the highest document that governs the city — it is a representation of the will of the people — city council doesn't have the power to make these changes itself."

The city administration reached out to Lakewood residents Stephen Davis and Larry Keller for their input on the plans.

"We're using the best advice of volunteers — Lakewood has no shortage of smart volunteers — to review parts of the charter that we think we can get cleaned up and presented in time for the November elections," said council president Mary Louise Madigan. "The main point is that we're trying to clean up the charter to make it easier to read and to understand — if you're one of the regular people who don't have law degree or any special interest in public administration."

Stephen Davis declined to comment for this story — but added that he would share some of the ideas behind the proposed charter amendments once council has had an opportunity to look over the changes.

A committee of the whole meeting to discuss the issue further is scheduled at Lakewood City Hall next Monday, but the city must submit the items to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections by Sept. 9.

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