The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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December 17, 2013

Charter review commission approves report to council

Without discussion, the Joplin Charter Commission on Tuesday night voted to approve a report of its findings that will be forwarded to the Joplin City Council.

The commission was appointed by the council to review nine questions. Of those, the panel endorsed three charter changes.

One is to lower the residency requirement to be a council candidate from four years to two years. Candidates also would be required to be a registered voter for two years preceding their election.

A second recommendation is to increase council pay from $5 per meeting to $100 per month. The pay was set when the City Charter was written in 1954, and most commission members said they believe the pay should cover some of the gas and other expenses of serving. Council members often drive to view locations where zoning issues and other questions arise, they said.

A third recommendation is to remove the requirement in the charter that a public works director be a registered engineer.

City Manager Mark Rohr proposed the removal of the engineer requirement, saying that applicants should be qualified managers more than engineers. That was opposed by the Missouri Society of Registered Engineers and received mixed opinions from those who testified before the commission.

A proposal to change the charter to place the police chief under the authority of the council rather than city manager was tabled. The commission chairman, Ron Richard, a state senator, said that change was suggested because of a new state law and he believes the state Legislature will change that requirement next session because it is a conflict with existing practice in charter cities.

Councilman Morris Glaze sought the charter review for several proposals he supported. An increase in council pay was one he promoted. The others did not receive recommendations by the panel.

They are:

• Public election of the mayor by voters rather than by the council.

• Restriction of the mayor’s vote to breaking a tie or making a supermajority when needed.

• Elimination of council zone seats.

• Limiting council members to serving three four-year terms, excluding time served by appointment to fill an unexpired term.

• Placing the city clerk under the supervision of the city manager instead of the council.

City Attorney Brian Head said the final report will be submitted to the council at its Jan. 9 meeting. The council will be asked to instruct city staff on whether to proceed with ballot proposals to submit to voters.

“If council wants to advance it to election, they will have to give me direction to write the ballot language because the deadline would be the end of January if they want to put it on the April ballot,” Head said.

Charter recommendation

Charter reviews are recommended every 10 years, but Councilman Morris Glaze lobbied for the review to examine the council election questions.

 

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