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Published: Sunday, 9/13/2009

Voters to address question of downsizing Toledo City Council

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Among those spearheading the 'Nine is Fine' campaign are Councilmen Lindsay Webb and Tom Waniewski. Among those spearheading the 'Nine is Fine' campaign are Councilmen Lindsay Webb and Tom Waniewski.
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Voters will decide Tuesday whether to maintain a 12-member Toledo City Council, with an even split of district and at-large representatives or cut the size to nine members and do away with citywide council seats.

Issue 2, also called "Nine is Fine," was spearheaded and supported by Councilmen Lindsay Webb and Tom Waniewski, and Dave Schulz, who has failed to previously get elected to council.

Opponents have offered a plethora of reasons to defeat Issue 2, but Ms. Webb said she is undeterred.

"It will be a long time before this issue will come before the council or the voters again," she said. "People have floated different versions and they could do this right now, but instead they pontificate in the news media and take no action."

Ms. Webb also said reducing the council size would save the city $255,000 a year.

Toledo has operated since 1993 with a 12-person council of six at-large councilmen elected from anywhere in the city and six elected from districts.

There are 23 people running this week for the six at-large seats.

Under current city law, the top 12 vote-getters in Tuesday's primary will advance to the Nov. 3 ballot. The top six vote-getters in the general election would win seats on council.

Under the Nine is Fine proposed amendment to the Toledo charter, only the top six vote-getters would be on the Nov. 3 ballot, and only three of those would be elected.

They would serve two years rather than four-year terms.

At the end of those two years, their at-large seats would be converted to "super-district" seats, each made up of two council districts, and new elections would be held, resulting in a council of six district councilmen and three so-called super-district councilmen.

Each super district would encompass two of the six districts, with boundaries to be drawn by the apportionment board after the 2010 census.

The other 10 sitting councilmen, most of the council challengers, the Lucas County Democratic Party, and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner have all blasted Issue 2 and urged voters to say no.

"The Nine is Fine proposal is not in Toledo's best interest," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

"The sponsors, however well-intentioned, are clearly not acting in Toledo's best interests. The councilmen, both in their first term, simply want to protect their seats into the future," the mayor said.

The mayor said a reduction of council should begin with the elimination of district council seats since "district council members, too often, fail to see the needs of the entire city."

A group of council candidates from three political persuasions in July denounced the proposed charter amendment. The so-called "flaw in the law" group said the legislation is confusing and didn't go through the charter review process established by the city charter.

Adam Martinez, a Democrat running for council, said there was no community input when the legislation was written and when people were asked to sign petitions.

Republican Rob Ludeman said the amendment appears to require the election of nine people in November, raising the size of council from 12 to 15.

And he said it disenfranchises voters, who now can vote for seven councilmen but would be able to vote for only two under the revised law if voters approve it in September.

Mr. Schulz, a member of the group COBRA - Citizens Organized to Bring Reform and Accountability - said the opponents are trying to create "unfounded fears."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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