Friday, July 10, 2009

Go Cuyahoga charter effort turns in 79,000 signatures, but may need more

Go Cuyahoga, the effort to enact a charter for a new Cuyahoga County government, turned in 79,255 signatures to the Board of Elections this afternoon. But their press release says they may need more, and they'll continue their petition drive.

Meanwhile, commissioners Tim Hagan and Peter Lawson Jones announced yesterday that they plan to offer a competing proposal for restructuring the county on the November ballot.

The Go Cuyahoga group wants to replace the county commissioners with an 11-member council and a county executive who would appoint several county officials who are now elected. It wants to put its proposed charter (click here to read it as a Word document) on the Nov. 3 ballot.

"Our work is the result of over 20 years of analysis," Parma Heights Mayor and Go Cuyahoga organizer Martin Zanotti told me this afternoon, referring to previous studies of possible county reforms. Zanotti said the proposed charter, developed this year by a group of local politicians and businessmen, would reorganize the county around the goals of "jobs, equity, and economic development."

The law says the group had to turn in at least 45,458 signatures by July 13. Now, the board of elections has until July 21 to examine Go Cuyahoga's petitions and decide whether 45,458 of its 79,255 signatures are valid. If they aren't, the group can embark on a second round of signature-gathering, with a Sept. 4 deadline.

“We expect that we will need more signatures," county prosecutor Bill Mason, a Go Cuyahoga member, said in the press release, "but today is a positive step toward putting this charter on the ballot."

That's a sign that the group knows many of its signatures may not be valid -- because of incomplete information, signers not being registered to vote at the address they give, all sorts of reasons. This is common in petition drives. A very similar effort in 2004 turned in 74,000 signatures -- yet so many were invalidated, it fell sort of making the ballot by 2,700 signatures in the first round and 153 signatures short after the second round.

The charter plan may face competition. Hagan and Jones said yesterday that they plan to put a competing proposal for restructuring the county on the November ballot. Their plan isn't written yet, though Hagan said he agreed that some elected county officials should be appointed instead.

Hagan and Jones argued against an executive-council form of government, with Jones saying a county council elected by districts would encourage parochialism instead of regionalism, while Hagan questioned the $175,000 salary proposed for a county executive.

"We will offer options in terms of county government restructuring," Jones said. "We could not in good conscience permit [the charter proposal to go on the ballot] unchecked and unopposed."


Anonymous said...

Can Hagan and Jones put their proposal on the ballot without signatures by virture of being commissioners?

Erick Trickey said...

They can, and today (7/16), they did: