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Published: Saturday, 6/13/2009

Group aims to shrink Toledo City Council

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A citizens group that wants to eliminate council's six at-large seats and shrink the legislative body from 12 to 9 members submitted more than 7,000 signatures Friday to get the issue on the Sept. 15 ballot.

"It's my belief that there would be a savings of about $255,000 in terms of benefits and salaries for the council members and their assistants," said Councilman Lindsay Webb, one of two council members involved in the effort.

The group, Toledo COBRA, which stands for Citizens Organized to Bring Reform and Accountability, calls its campaign "Nine is Fine." By amending the city charter, it seeks to reorganize council, which currently has six district and six at-large members.

Ms. Webb and Councilman Tom Waniewski - who are both district council members - want to eliminate the at-large seats and replace them with three "super district" seats.

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

The Nine is Fine plan calls for only three people - instead of six - to be elected to at-large seats this November for a two-year term.

The three newly elected at-large members would serve two-year terms. They could run again in 2011, when district council members are up for re-election, but not as at-large members. By this time, the boundaries of the new super districts would have been drawn.

Mr. Waniewski said he has always supported smaller government and indicated that the city of Columbus is larger than Toledo but has only seven council seats.

He acknowledged that some district members do not support the plan.

At-large council members Betty Shultz and George Sarantou have already rejected the plan.

Adopting the proposed change would also mean voters could replace the whole of council on Election Day instead of waiting for two election cycles, as is currently the case.

Ms. Webb said supporters of the proposed charter amendment needed to collect 4,625 signatures from registered voters.

District Councilman Michael Ashford said the Nine is Fine plan is politically motivated.

"When you have political officials behind the scenes to change the landscape, I think it's politically motivated for their agendas," he said.

The city charter states a charter change going to the voters by petition "shall be submitted when a petition is filed with the Clerk of Council setting forth the proposed amendment and signed by not less than 10 percent of the electors."

Mr. Waniewski also said an all-district council would mean better representation for citizens and improved services.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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