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Published: Wednesday, 5/19/2010

Commissioners hold rival news conferences on county government reform initiative

BLADE STAFF

Two Lucas County commissioners held dueling news conferences Wednesday to announce rival plans for letting county residents change the form of government.

Pete Gerken, president of the Lucas County board of commissioners, stood with several other elected county officials to call for letting voters elect a charter county government commission.

He said the commission would be required to propose a new county charter by the next general election, although it was not clear whether that election would be in 2011 or 2012. Mr. Gerken said citizens and the charter commission would recommend whether to go to a county executive form of government, or recommend only minor changes.

Under the Gerken plan, voters would elect a 15-member commission in November.

He was joined by County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, County Recorder Jeanine Perry, County Clerk of Courts Bernie Quilter, and Lucas County Democratic Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler.

Ben Konop, who is in his last year as a county commissioner, said he will propose putting on the ballot a specific charter county plan that would be similar to that approved last year by voters in Cuyahoga County — a county executive, an 11-member county council, and an elected county prosecutor.

Mr. Konop said Lucas County is in competition for jobs with Northern Ohio's other two major urbanized counties — Cuyahoga and Summit — and both of them have adopted home rule county government.

He called Mr. Gerken's proposal a plan to save current elected politicians' jobs.

"The need for change has been clear for years. The time for studying and committees has passed. The voters deserve the right to change county government and help our community change our economic course and create jobs," Mr. Konop said.

Mr. Gerken said, that, "In these trying economic times, we owe it to our citizens to explore every way to save money and reduce expenses, including reforming county government.

"A charter county government may not be better than our current form, but we owe it to the community to find out," he said.

The Gerken resolution will be on the county commission's agenda for next Tuesday. He said he would schedule two public hearings before holding a vote.



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