Our View: Marion City Council should not abandon charter government effort

We believe Marion residents should have the right to determine how they are governed locally.

That is why it was disappointing to see the Marion City Council's effort to simply begin a charter government conversation stall last month.

We believe such an effort is worthwhile and strongly encourage the council to at least go forward with a proper examination of the issue.

A city charter essentially works as a municipality's constitution. Ohio law allows cities to draft their own charters to determine self-governance. Cities that don't draft a charter, such as Marion, must follow state law for how they are organized.

Most Ohio cities have chosen - we believe wisely - to determine their own form of government. Charters can include provisions such as hiring a city manager instead of an elected mayor. They can have longer council terms than the two-year terms mandated by state law. While we have thoughts on what a charter should include, it can include most anything.

We believe Marion residents can best determine their own government and fully support an effort to draw a city charter that makes sense locally.

For that to happen, the council must vote to place an issue on the general election ballot asking voters to decide whether to establish a commission that would draft a city charter. More simply, the council must vote to give voters a chance to create a commission to simply study whether a charter makes sense for Marion.

Voters would also be asked to select people to serve on the charter commission to spend roughly a year studying what type of charter - if any makes sense for Marion. It could be vastly different than the government we have now, or it could be the exact same. But a charter gives the city the opportunity to periodically change the structure of local government without needing approval from the Ohio General Assembly.

Finding people willing to serve on the commission is critical to the process, as such a body needs open-minded residents who are committed to putting in significant work to make Marion better. We certainly encourage community leaders - the commission cannot include council members - to step up to help this effort.

Unfortunately, the initial vote by council to start the process should be the easy part. It is difficult to understand why council members would oppose an effort to examine if Marion's city government can be better organized.

There may be concerns with how the process was handled to begin a charter effort or fears of what a future city charter might include. Regardless, we feel city leaders must get past these concerns and give creating a charter a fair effort.

Fortunately, it appears there is a good chance that will happen. Councilman Brett Cornelius, who chairs the council's charter committee, said he is not giving up his efforts. In fact, he said he plans to do more work this fall to educate his fellow council members and the public about the process.

That will start with a committee meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at council chambers. We encourage those interested in learning about Marion and self-governance to attend.

Change can be difficult, but it can also be beneficial. We believe Marion residents deserve the right to govern themselves. City leaders should move forward with at least studying a charter.

This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Marion City Council should not abandon charter government effort