The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 5, 2013

Ashtabula County Democrats oppose charter issue

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Ashtabula County’s Democratic Executive Committee has announced its formal opposition to a proposed county charter government initiative on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Committee members unanimously rejected the charter at a recent meeting, according to the letter written by Duane Feher, party chairman.

The proposal, authored by Committee for New Ashtabula, would replace the present three-commissioner system with a seven-member council. The county would be divided into seven districts, each electing its own councilperson. In addition, some county positions now elected would be changed to appointments handled by a county administrator hired by the council.

Feher, in the letter, said residents lose the right to pick their leadership under the proposal.

“These seven part-time council members will not be accountable to all county voters,” he wrote. “They will only be accountable to those who live in one-seventh of the county. Thus a voter will only have one-seventh the voice and one-seventh the vote.”

Feher, in the letter, also said the charter proposal was written “behind closed doors with no public input or public meetings” or involvement from “duly-elected Democratic County officials. He concludes the letter by saying a vote for the charter “would be akin to buying a pig in a poke packaged as a 17-page document drafted by a private group.”

Robert Malinowski, spokesman for Committee for New Ashtabula, said Thursday he was not surprised by the Democrats’ response. Malinowski said efforts to explain the charter initiative at a Democratic Central Committee meeting were unsuccessful.

“I was hoping to address (the committee),” he said. “I was disappointed I didn’t get the opportunity.”

Two public meetings regarding the charter issue will be held this month. The Protect Your Vote—Vote No on the County Charter group will hold a forum at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at A-Tech’s cafeteria building B. On Oct. 17, another panel discussion will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at Trumbull Township hall. Both events will be moderated by the Ashtabula County League of Women Voters, organizers said.