Cincinnati Charter Review Committee Meeting

Jason Lee Overbey – Cincinnati, Ohio – Tuesday, July 14, 3-5pm – City Hall

A Charter Review Task Force has been established to review the Cincinnati City Charter and to assess what changes ought to be made.

First, here is the: CINCINNATI CITY CHARTER as of today. Cool!

Next, the Cincinnati Research Institute has loaned their website out to the Task Force for information, polls and a calendar. From the Task Force we have this:

The Charter Review Task Force receives no public funding. The Cincinnati Research Institute has donated the use of its website to enable the task force to engage the public on the web; to advise citizens of public forum dates, topics and locations; to post studies and data received by task force committees; and to enable the task force to conduct public opinion polls.

The Charter Review Task Force has been created by a unanimous vote of Cincinnati City Council to oversee a complete and holistic review of Cincinnati’s Charter. The charter is the city’s constitution.  It defines the roles of the mayor and city council, sets the number of council members, determines who they represent, and how council and the mayor are elected.  The charter establishes different types of taxation and maximum tax rates.  It determines how our park system is governed, how zoning changes can and cannot be made, and establishes the chain of command in times of emergency.  It impacts essentially every aspect of city government.


I attended the first public meeting at City Hall on the 14th. Here are the notes:

  • Of the names I could see, here are a few on the committee who attended:
  11. (And others who I could not readily identify)

I did my best to get links for all the names above. Click their name for info. Again, I couldn’t see all the name plates of those in attendance. There was also a law student from Northern Ohio (I want to say Toledo) helping the Task Force.

  • The committee is subdivided into 1) Obsolete & Ambiguous Provisions; 2) Elections; 3) Balance of Power; 4) Labor and Administration; 5) Fiscal Reform; 6) Direct Accountability to Citizens; and 7) Charter History and Structure.
  • Meeting opened with information about 1) Obsolete & Ambiguous Provisions of the charter.
  • The Obsolete Committee had just adjourned from meeting and had no printed recommendations to submit to the group.
  • Chair reviewed that the Committee will gather information from all the sub-committees and present recommendations to the Task Force. They will then make recommendations to the Council Rules committee.
  • The Rules committee will ask the Solicitor’s Office to draft language for the ballot.
  • The Task Force will not submit language – only recommendations and requests.
  • The Solicitor’s Office will also look into unintended consequences (legal, et al) of making those changes.
  • Although no written documentation was available, the Obsolete Committee had some examples of Articles to correct.
  • ARTICLE 6, for example, they recommend can be entirely repealed due to antiquated and unnecessary language.
  • They recommended changing the word, “legislation” to, “resolution”. The Council only votes on resolutions.
  • Motions are really policy statements and cannot be vetoed. Only ordinances or resolutions can be vetoed.
  • There was much debate about the THREE READINGS rule in our charter.
  1. The Three Readings rule is in place to give the minority opposition to ordinances the opportunity to prepare a defense on a proposal of an ordinance. The readings have been required for them to have time for due diligence and preparation.
  2. The recommendation of the Obsolete sub-committee was, very clearly, to leave the rule in place. However, they wanted to ADD that there be publication of all proposed ordinances on the City Website.
  3. Interestingly, the Committee broke off into arguments about NOT removing the Three Readings rule.
  4. I felt, all over again, my visceral frustrations with government and think tanks – although this committee is a non-governmental task force. Why, I almost wondered out loud, is so difficult to receive and interpret what the Chair was saying. I got it right first time.
  5. The Three Readings rule, as mentioned by Jeff Berding, is often bypassed. He stated that the goal and the vision of the Task Force is to foster and force transparency upon the government. Excellent! So he advocated for NOT removing the rule. Which, again, was never proposed but necessary to clarify.
  6. It was reiterated, finally, that the proposal was to ADD requirements of digital publication of an ordinance so minority opposition could review and prepare before voted on in Council.
  7. So-called “Super Majority”: Jeff Berding gave the example of the City Budget. If 6 Council Members and the Mayor agree to an ordinance or resolution it can be passed right there. This is a super majority. The three readings are bypassed. The idea is that this requirement of digital publication – for say, 24 hours prior to voting – would afford a minority voice. The digitalization of the ordinance could NOT be bypassed by a super majority.
  8. Committee then discussed the burden of the clerk and legitimate access to a minority in a 24 hour window. Would it be too much for the clerk to post? Would 24 hours be enough time for the minority? No conclusions were made.
  9. Vanessa White raised the issue of business days. Would the posting include weekends and holidays? Presently, submission Friday equals publication Monday.
  10. Silbersack mentioned, “This is a trade off between transparency for the public and efficiency for the government. This proposal of digitalization does slow down the process but increases transparency.”
  • To have the addition of digitalization added to the August 6th deadline to have a ballot measure will not happen. The main committee wanted more information.
  • They also discussed Article II, Section 6, last Paragraph about physical publication(s). Vanessa White raised the issue that, in spite of conservation, the printing ought always be available to the public.
  • The admitted and discussed that for future meetings they need to have more printed information to disseminate to the group and be more clear on their motions and voting process.
  • I left the meeting about 35 minutes early. I was afraid my meter was going to run out and it looked very beautiful outside. I wanted cheese coneys. I felt that was as “Cincinnati” as it could get for the day and I entered the words, “Skyline with extra cheese – Price Hill” in my notes.

My overall impression of the group:

  • Unorganized.
  • Somewhat confused.
  • Very committed to transparency.
  • I also got the sense that they truly care about the charter.
  • Clunky.
  • Most were educated and cogent, a few were not.
  • Many members did not speak at all.
  • The African American community was minimally represented.

My notes are just that: mine. They aren’t meant to be official at all. They are by no means in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order. I am quite sure I missed some things.

My only mission in attending was to get an intuitive feel for the PEOPLE on the Task Force and to understand their thinking.

My disclaimer is that I, in no way, intend this to be an official report. It is my notes and it is my thoughts.

It is, in the true spirit of this website, me… SPEAKING UP!

I plan on attended as many of the public meetings as possible. The Cincinnati City Charter review is a critical process. I cannot express how much of an impacting effect I believe their findings and ballot issues will be for far into the future for Cincinnati.


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