Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reform is still alive, but the clock is ticking

We still might get to vote on creating a new Cuyahoga County government this year. But time is running short.

U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge convened a meeting last Monday to talk about how to reform county government, the Plain Dealer reports. She's joined forces with Parma Heights Mayor Martin Zanotti and other suburban mayors who've been talking about the idea for months. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson is also involved in the talks, and prosecutor Bill Mason seems to be too.

If the group can agree on a new form of government, they'll draft a charter for the county. If they want to put their proposal on the November 3 ballot, they have until July to get 46,000 petition signatures.

This new coalition solves the reform effort's biggest problem. To put it bluntly, the leading reformers were all white, and they hadn't tried to get black support. (They had talked about the need to reach out to black voters and political leaders, but they hadn't actually done it.) Fudge called them out on that this spring.

Now, they have a new problem: time. A month or two is not a lot when you have to draft a charter, organize a petition drive, and get 46,000 people to sign.

I cannot figure out the exact deadline. A petition for a county charter has to be certified by the board of elections 95 days before the vote, according to the Ohio Constitution. That's July 31. But how long does it take to certify a petition that big? The board of elections hasn't dealt with a county charter proposal before. They're getting back to me on Tuesday.

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