More charter changes should make you wonder

The City of Dayton is having serious problems- yet instead of doing something that would really make a difference- like moving to a strong Mayor form of government (which I don’t agree with) or changing the system of voting to be a run-off system (which I do), or passing laws to stop foreclosures or selling off of loans- we instead are voting on ways to excuse commissioners from meetings and still playing with the residency rules.

• Issue 15 would insert a provision into the city charter clarifying that when commissioners miss a cancelled meeting, they are not considered absent.

If approved by voters, when a meeting is cancelled because there would not be a quorum, individual votes to excuse each member of the City Commission would not be required.

• Issue 16 would clarify which city employees are covered by civil service regulations and which are considered “at will,” who may be fired by the authority that appointed them, generally the city manager or the city commission.

Less than 100 top administrators are considered “at will” employees including city managers, department directors and division managers.

• Issue 17 would clarify language in the City Charter that “mills” strictly refers to property taxes.

“This will not raise taxes. It will not impose authority on the City Commission to raise property or income taxes without a vote of the people,” said Kary Gray, executive assistant to the City Commission.

• Issue 18 would align the city’s residency requirement for part-time city employees to mirror that of full-time employees.

via Dayton voters to decide city charter changes on May 4.

At first glance- I’d vote no on 15 – because as it is- no one gets in trouble for missing meetings (Dean Lovelace missed at least 3-4 months worth due to his stroke- but was excused- even though he wasn’t fulfilling his duties).

I’d vote yes on 18- because the residency requirements are illegal- and they should have been out of the charter when the Supreme Court ruled.

I still need time to research 16 and 17- both seem like there might be more to them.

The thing that bothers me the most is that I don’t remember anyone from City Hall coming to neighborhood groups to fill us in on these changes. I’m aware the DDN can’t be trusted to give us the info in a timely manner- but City Hall needs to learn how to present these better if they want the trust of the people.

We welcome any insight these charter changes- if you know something one way or another- please share it here.

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11 Responses

  1. David Lauri April 26, 2010 / 10:40 am
    Wouldn’t it be nice if the City of Dayton had a website on which it could host a page with brief explanations of the charter amendments and why Council recommends them?
  2. David Esrati April 26, 2010 / 11:08 am

    @David L- that would be too simple and logical.

  3. Sue April 26, 2010 / 11:52 am
    I looked at the Civil Service proposed changes when they first came out, but no forum to comment.

    As I recall, there is an added “community service” in the merit and fitness factors the Board looks at when determining whether a class of positions is tested (competitive) or resume (noncompetitive).  It is obviously much easier to hire friends via the latter route, and the trend has been to make more positions noncompetitive.  This will facilitate that.  Not a cosmetic change, but a fundamental one.

    The Secretary-Chief Examiner of Civil Service, and Assistant, would be specifically made unclassified and at-will employees, subject to dismissal by Commission for political reasons.  This is in direct contradiction to the foresight and wisdom of the Charter framers who insulated these positions from political influence (in the wake of the lessons of Tammany Hall) by making them classified, i.e. subject to dismissal with due process and for just cause.  Interestingly, the City ignored its own Charter treating the previous incumbents as “at will”, without due process, and were criticized by the federal court of appeals for doing so.

    The proposal goes further and does what was attempted – and abandoned- in 1998 by creating unclassified, at-will Commission “aides” who serve at the will of individual commissioners, instead of professional legislative aides who carry on regardless of who is in office.  Many cities do this, but the expense of such a “luxury” was questioned even in 1998, considering the arrangement allows for the use of such publicly-paid employees with little accountability regarding public duties.  Again, hiring such aides as “at-will”, ignoring the Charter, was probably what got the City the fired Commission aide Larry Miller.

    Sadly, the Charter seems to be a document to be ignored, until the voters are asked to “clean it up” to match what the City is already doing.

  4. David Esrati April 26, 2010 / 2:10 pm

    Sue- thanks for the insight. I’ve always wondered about the nepotism that happens- even with Civil Service.

    As usual- the Commission is once again trying to put lipstick on a pig.

    So- that means vote no on 16.

  5. Civil Servants are People, Too April 27, 2010 / 1:07 am
    @ I’m aware the DDN can’t be trusted to give us the info in a timely manner

    Three months ago wasn’t enough?

    @ Wouldn’t it be nice if the City of Dayton had a website on which it could host a page with brief explanations of the charter amendments and why Council recommends them?

    You mean, like this one I found on their home page in two seconds?
    Sometimes it seems people are just looking for excuse to bash their government.    Making it sound like there is nothing else going on in City Hall but these four laws is misleading at best.   The city is clearly doing many, many things.   Even if you don’t agree with  them all, they are moving forward.
    The constant inflammatory language is disappointing.   I expect this from the DDN comments or the Tea Party, but would expect a more intellectually honest discussion here.   Sue is the only one with any real insight today.
    How about an actual policy question – What should they ask on a competitive exam to determine if someone is qualified to be a legislative aide?   What are the qualifications?

  6. David Esrati April 27, 2010 / 7:19 am

    @CSAPT- actually- I had these changes posted:

    Came from the improperly constructed PDF posted on the City of Dayton site. I posted 2 days before the DDN article you reference.

    It was also passed as an “Emergency Ordinance”- and shouldn’t someone from the City have been making the rounds of neighborhood organizations and “Priority Boards” to explain the changes?

    I don’t see any place for discussion on the city site- and, video isn’t searchable. Using Flash to present video means it’s not mobile accessible- or- ADA compliant (since the slides aren’t read).

    I’m sorry that you feel it’s my job to do a better job than our Civil Servants at providing information to the public.


  7. David Esrati April 27, 2010 / 7:35 am

    And note- after listening to the video CSAPT provided- it was nice to see that Mayor Leitzell questioned why these were on the ballot as an “Emergency Ordinance” and questioned the process- and he also thanked staff for getting it online because of the “online discussion”

  8. David Lauri April 27, 2010 / 8:38 pm
    You mean, like this one I found on their home page in two seconds?

    No, actually I do not mean like that.  I did see that link, but it’s a link to a video.  Instead what I think would be more helpful is what I said, a page with “brief [written] explanations of the charter amendments and why Council recommends them,” something one can scan in a minute or two instead of having to watch a video.
  9. Civil Servants are People, Too April 29, 2010 / 1:42 am
    Nitpick all you want, but my points hold true…
    a) the information was announced a while ago, and b) the information was online.
    These facts were not apparent from the post or replies.   I’m just pointing this out to balance the discussion.   Misleading statements should not go unchallenged.   That’s the beauty of the interwebz.
    Yes, I agree it could be better.    Transparency is good, but it comes with a cost.   People are forced to make tough choices about what to spend their time on.   I’m sure they do the best they can.   These are not easy times for civil servants, who are asked to do more with less every day.
    Instead of bashing the city for perceived shortcomings, why not advocate directly for more money spent on IT and PR?   Perhaps these areas are underfunded in Dayton.    If transparency is more important than say, the police, take a stand and say so.   Letting your government know your priorities is more helpful than just pointing fingers.
  10. David Lauri April 29, 2010 / 3:27 pm
    If transparency is more important than say, the police, take a stand and say so.

    Sorry, but I call bullshit.  If one watches the video of which you’re so proud, you can see that the City of Dayton already paid a city staffer to create a PowerPoint about the proposed charter amendments.  Are you seriously telling me, Civil Servants are People, Too, that the only way that PowerPoint could have been posted to the City’s website, perhaps on the same page as the video, is by cutting police services?  Come on, it should take all of like 5 minutes to upload a PowerPoint and create a link to it.
  11. Civil Servants Are People, Too April 29, 2010 / 5:51 pm
    David, obviously you are right that it would not take long to correct that one issue.    As I said above, they could be better but compared to most cities around here, they do a good job.   
    But consider this – take that 5 minutes of staff time, and apply that to every department, every contract, every policy, every announcement, every issue that the public might be interested in…. and those 5 minute chunks start adding up very quickly.

    My point again is simply that there is a cost associated with that time.     

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