The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 8, 2014

Voters to decide proposed charter changes

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin voters will ballot in April on whether to make three amendments to the city charter based on recommendations by the Charter Review Commission.

The City Council, after some discussion Tuesday night, authorized the recommendations to be added to the spring ballot.

Chuck Brown, vice chairman of the commission, told the council that the panel had reviewed the nine questions submitted.

The 11-member commission, appointed in October by the council, held four public hearings before approving its final report late last month. The group studied seven recommendations by Councilman Morris Glaze and two by city administrators.

Commission members agreed to recommend that:

• A residency qualification for council candidates be lowered from four years to two.

• Pay for council members be raised from $5 per meeting to $100 a month.

• A requirement that public works directors hold an engineering license be dropped.

Glaze said he was disappointed that the panel did not recommend more of the changes he advocated. He had sought changes in the election of council members such as term limits and the removal of council positions designated for zones in the city. He also wanted to limit mayoral votes to tiebreakers or supermajorities. The commission did not recommend that those changes be proposed to voters.

Councilman Bill Scearce asked about the basis for the panel’s conclusion that the public works director should not be required to be an engineer. Brown said that given the broad duties of the department director, the panel thought the requirement could restrict the pool of applicants when an opening is to be filled.

On the topic of council pay, Brown said the $5 per meeting or $10 a month dates to when the charter was adopted in 1954. That may have paid some expenses incurred by council members at the time, but it does little to defray the cost of gasoline or other such expenses now, he said commission members discussed. Council members travel to meetings, and they usually visit the sites involved in zoning requests and other council business.

“It is certainly better than $10, yet not enough to shock the conscience,” Brown said of the recommended pay. He said some cities do not pay council members while others pay much more than that.

Glaze had asked that the commission look at increased pay as a way to encourage people to serve who may not be able to afford the expense. He has his current council pay sent directly to the Joplin Humane Society as a contribution. Councilmen Michael Seibert and Benjamin Rosenberg said they believe that serving on the council should be a volunteer position without pay. Rosenberg said he does not accept the pay offered now.

Rosenberg made a motion to place the commission’s recommendations on the April ballot so that voters could determine whether they should be adopted. The motion was approved 8-1, with Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean casting the lone dissenting vote.

In other business Tuesday, the council agreed to hire Brown as the city’s municipal court judge and John Podleski, an attorney who also works as an assistant county prosecutor, as associate judge. Brown is a former city attorney.

The council also made appointments to a newly created finance committee, which will give the council advice on the potential long-term effects of large financial issues.

Those named by the council to serve are Tom Franz, a corporate financial consultant who suggested the idea to the city; Russ Alcorn, of Edward Jones Investments; John Groesbeck, of Missouri Southern State University; Mark Hensley, of Freeman Health System; and David Heltzel, of Oasis Village.

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