Special committee votes no on changing City Council size
CHILLICOTHE— Over the last two months a special committee in Chillicothe City Council has been looking at the possibility of changing the number of representatives on the council.
According to the Ohio Revised Code a town of Chillicothe's size, with a population of around 22,000 in 2021, should have a council made up of seven ward councilmen or five at-large councilmen. The current hybrid style that Chillicothe has, with at-large members and ward representatives, has been grandfathered in for the city. However, if this style is changed the council will not be able to go back to it.
During discussions at the first special council meeting between council members several pros and cons were brought up. Pros included saving the city money on payroll and insurance. President of council, Joseph Gieringer, said this opportunity also gives council members more responsibility. This responsibility, however, was seen as a negative as some members of council said it would be hard to represent more community members than they already do. Another con brought up was the possibility of smaller wards being unrepresented or overpowered by other areas in the city, thus turning council races into a popularity contest.
One concern from council was redistricting as it is long and costly as each ward has to meet certain requirements.
Throughout the meeting, several community members voiced their opinions as well. Some community members felt that going to all at large members would result in those from larger wards winning and those in poorer districts being unrepresented. Community members were also wary of the possibility of gerrymandering when it came to redistricting.
People also expressed concerns over shrinking council when the city is trying to attract new citizens. With the at-large option, council could later add or remove positions based on the population without having to redistrict.
During the second meeting of the special committee chairperson Kathy Payne explained that she conferred with the law director about this assignment and found that Chillicothe does not actually fall under the section of code mentioned in the assignment so it would not be able to be moved forward. Due to this the three committee members, Payne, Greg Phillips and Jamie Brown all voted to dispose of the assignment. This means that it will not be moving to be voted on by all of council and it is removed from the special committee's assignments.
Payne did mention that this assignment, if rewritten to correctly fit within legal guidelines, could come back to a committee in council sometime in the future. However, Brown commented saying that if this ever does come back to a committee he advises those assigned to take time to look at all the options as he feels currents the city has "the best of both worlds with the hybrid" model that is currently in place.
Shelby Reeves is a reporter for the Chillicothe Gazette. You can email her at SReeves@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @Shelby_Reeves_
This article originally appeared on Chillicothe Gazette: Special committee votes no on changing City Council size