The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 9, 2013

There maybe better way to sell charter

By NEIL FRIEDER - Star Beacon Editor
Star Beacon

— It was not so much that it lost. That was sort of expected. The surprise was it lost very badly.

It was the proposed charter that would have changed Ashtabula County government dramatically. At the heart of the proposal was to do away with three countywide elected full-time commissioners. In their place would be seven part-time councilmen, representing districts in the county. If it had passed you would vote for one part-time councilman and not three full-time commissioners.

 The proposed charter also would do away with the elected clerk of courts, county clerk and treasurer.

The pushers for the charter said  politics would be taken out of county government since all the elections would be non-partisan.

The opposition to the charter was well-organized and was able to plant the notion in the voters’ minds they were losing their right to vote.

They  also were successful in conveying the message the charter was written by a phantom group, or person.  

In a meeting I had with the charter committee, one member told me why does it matter who wrote it. It is only about the charter.

 Well, it did matter.

Early on I thought there may be a chance voters would say yes to a charter government, devoid of partisan politics.

 It was politics though that put one of the biggest nails into the charter’s coffin. The committee pushing for the charter seemed to be mostly Republicans (there may have been one Democrat and a Libertarian) and the committee against the charter was made of all Democrats. Democrats still outnumber Republicans in Ashtabula County.

So it was shaping up as another Ashtabula County Democrat vs. Republican battle. There was a caveat to this: Although the Republican Party endorsed the charter  it did not seem to be a very strong endorsement. It did not seem to even have Tea Party support.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party did provide a strong endorsement against the charter. The AFL-CIO lined up against the charter.

I am not sure if the majority of Ashtabula countians are actually that satisfied with county government. The county is still mired in an economic slump, and county services have been pared because of lack of money. Ashtabula countians are among the most unhealthiest in the state and there is still too much crime here, including a very healthy illegal drug trade.

Would  people be willing to move to a charter government though as a step toward solving these ills?

 Maybe, if they know who put it together and  how it is put together.

 In the late 1980s, Conneaut made a decision to see if the voters would switch from a strong mayoral form of government to a charter, which would allow for the hiring of a  professional city manager.

In 1989, the people of Conneaut voted in a 15-member charter commission to study and devise a proposed charter to place it on the ballot for the residents to vote on. Over the course of about a year, the public was well-informed through the media and public meetings.

It went to the ballot in 1990 and although it was close, the charter passed. It went into effect in 1992, and remains in effect.

So, I am suggesting a referendum be placed on the ballot asking the public if it is interested in changing the county’s government to a charter government. If the public says yes, the county commissioners would then be tasked with asking the county’s Democrat and Republican parties to provide five appointees each and the Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court judges to name five appointees as well.

This group would be charged with holding a number of public hearings to get input on the public’s feelings toward county government and what they would like in a charter.

 This group of representatives would be given a timetable to devise a proposal that would go on a ballot for the public to vote on.

It may not pass, but I bet it would do a lot better than the one on Tuesday’s ballot.

NOW ON TO THAT NUMBER ONE SONG ON THE BLUES CHART, “Being Down on the City of Ashtabula,” by the discordant group, Negative Ashtabulans.

That song has been played over and over and over. It’s very popular.

Well, do you want to hear a different tune?

 A while back, Bob Dylan, Americas’ greatest singer-song writer and poet hit some real high notes on Ashtabula.

He wrote a a beautiful love song called: “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”

So sing this first stanza:

I’ve seen love go by my door

It’s never been this close before

Never been so easy or so slow

Been shooting in the dark too long

When something’s not right it’s wrong

Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Skip the next five stanzas and sing the ending:

I’ll look for you in old Honolulu

San Francisco, ASHTABULA

Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know

But I’ll see you in the sky above

In the tall grass, in the ones I love

Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Want to hear a great version of this? Go on the Internet, Google the title and click on the Miley Cyrus version.

Enjoy and be proud of Ashtabula. It’s right up there with San Francisco, Honolulu.

Frieder is editor of the Star Beacon and can be reached at nfeditor@suite224.net.