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Published: Thursday, 8/6/2009

Foes slam Issue 2's plan to cut Toledo council

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The head of the Lucas County Democratic Party, flanked yesterday by two Toledo councilmen, candidates, and others denounced the proposed "Nine Is Fine" charter amendment that would reduce the size of council.

Ron Rothenbuhler, party chairman, said the legislation is confusing and cuts down the representation Toledoans will have in city government.

"From a layman's point of view, this is not only confusing but very bad," Mr. Rothenbuhler said.

Under current law, the top 12 vote-getters in the Sept. 15 primary will advance to the Nov. 3 ballot, and the top six vote-getters would win seats on council.

The party's executive board opposes the measure.

"Issue 2 is an attempt by a small group of Republicans and rogue Democrats to take away our right to vote for citywide council members," Mr. Rothenbuhler said.

Twenty-three council candidates collected the required number of signatures to get on the ballot.

Under the "Nine Is Fine" amendment - supported by Democratic Councilman Lindsay Webb and Republican Councilman Tom Waniewski - only the top six vote-getters would be on the Nov. 3 ballot, and then only three of them 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 and new elections would be held, resulting in a council of six district councilmen and three super-district councilmen.

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

"Issue 2 was very poorly drafted. It's sloppy, and it appears self-contradictory," said Joe McNamara, council president.

"Laws have to be clearly writ-ten, and they have to be succinct so everyone understands them."

Mr. McNamara, a Democrat who is up for re-election this fall, said if the amendment is approved by voters, it would invite lawsuits from council candidates, who would have been elected under the current system but did not make the cut under the proposed plan.

Joining the news conference at the Lucas County Democratic Headquarters to oppose the issue were District Councilman Michael Ashford, and at-large council candidates Terry Biel, Terry Shankland, and Adam Martinez.

"The current City Council is a balanced system that ensures all voices are heard," Mr. Ashford said.

"Issue 2 will take away the right to elect citywide elected officials we will not sit by as a small minority of disgruntled Toledoans try to change our council system," Mr. Ashford asserted.

David Schulz, a member of the group COBRA - Citizens Organized to Bring Reform and Accountability, said foes are using scare tactics to confuse voters.

"Candidates who finish seventh through 12th could file a grievance or lawsuit, but I don't think they have a leg to stand on," Mr. Schulz said.

Ms. Webb, a district councilman, dismissed Mr. McNamara's claim the ballot language is confusing.

"This is the same old tired argument," she said. "Clearly council President McNamara thinks that we need a stimulus for local lawyers too."

Mr. McNamara is the only lawyer on council, although Ms. Webb has a law degree.

COBRA collected 7,000 signatures to get its issue on the ballot.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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