JOPLIN, Mo. —
Members of Joplin’s Charter Review Commission will meet today to discuss what recommendations they may make on proposed charter changes as the result of three public hearings they have held.
Commission Chairman Ron Richard, a state senator, said he will participate by telephone because he is in Jefferson City, where Gov. Jay Nixon has called a special session of the Legislature seeking approval of a proposed $150 million package of incentives in a bid to land production of a Boeing aircraft in Missouri.
Richard, asked what he intended for the charter commission to accomplish at today’s meeting, said, “First thing, my goal would be to have an open dialogue and to let members talk about what they have heard.”
The panel is studying specific questions assigned by the City Council. The commission eventually will recommend to the council whether it should place any of the proposed changes on an election ballot for voters to decide.
There are seven proposed charter amendments that council member Morris Glaze asked the council to put before the commission. Those proposed changes:
• Public election of the mayor by voters rather than by the council.
• Restrict the mayor’s vote to breaking a tie or making a supermajority when needed.
• Eliminate council zone seats.
• Require council candidates to be residents for two years instead of four.
• Limit council members to serving three four-year terms, excluding time served by appointment to fill an unexpired term.
• Raise council members’ pay from $5 per meeting to $100 per month.
• Place the city clerk under the supervision of the city manager instead of the council.
“I think the most important is allowing citizens to vote for the mayor, and I hope the commission sees that need,” Glaze said of the seven proposals he made. “In speaking to the citizens, they’ve emphasized to me they want to vote for the mayor instead of the council electing the mayor, and I think that’s a valid reason to do that.”
Glaze attended two of the three public hearings held by the commission. He said he was unable to attend the third, which is when the commission heard testimony on his suggestion to place the city clerk’s office under the supervision of the city manager.
One resident, former Councilman Jim West, testified against that proposal, saying Glaze had a personal motive to propose that change involving City Clerk Barbara Hogelin. West said her service has been exemplary.
Glaze on Monday said in response: “It has nothing to do with Ms. Hogelin. My motion was based on the job description. Council does a poor job of directing that position and evaluating that position. That’s been my experience on council. I think that position would be better supervised by the manager.”
Of his other suggestions, Glaze said, “Everything else stands on its own merit.”
There are mixed opinions.
Two people who spoke to the commission, Harvey Hutchinson, 4512 W. 27th St. Place, and Ryan Jackson, 1729 S. Jackson Ave., testified that they support public election of the mayor.
A resident who served on a charter panel during the last review in 2006, Jim Fleischaker, 2402 S. Indiana Ave., testified about previous discussions on that question.
“We pretty much came to the conclusion that the current system for selecting the mayor is not ideal,” he said. “One problem is you always have new members coming onto the council who have to make a decision at their first meeting who they’re going to support, and of course they haven’t had the experience with existing council members, so that is a problem. However, we felt that wasn’t a major problem and the current system is working fairly well.”
Fleischaker said the drawbacks to changing the election of the mayor are that someone who has not served on the council may not know how the council operates or may seek election because he has “an ax to grind.” Additionally, it would take experienced council members off the panel if they decided to run for mayor and did not get elected.
In regard to the mayoral vote, Fleischaker said there could be times when the council would not have sufficient votes if there were absent members or abstentions.
“I think these changes would not improve our form of government,” even though there have been personal factions on the current council, he said.
Two other proposed changes under review are:
• Place the police chief under the authority of the City Council instead of the city manager in response to a new state law designed to give chiefs due process rights should they be dismissed for not carrying out an illegal or unethical directive from a supervisor.
• Eliminate the requirement that the public works director be a registered engineer.
THE CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION will meet at 5:30 p.m. today on the fifth floor of City Hall, 602 S. Main St.