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Sylvania council hears pitch on county reform

  • Kevin-Haddad-Sylvania-Township-trustee-asks-question

    Kevin Haddad, a Sylvania Township trustee, leaves the lectern after asking a question about the proposed reform. Members of city council also asked questions.

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  • Thomas-Palmer-Lucas-County-home-rule-government-Sylvania-City-Council

    Thomas Palmer, a member of the volunteer panel campaigning to reorganize Lucas County into a home-rule government, addresses the Sylvania City Council meeting.

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Thomas-Palmer-Lucas-County-home-rule-government-Sylvania-City-Council

Thomas Palmer, a member of the volunteer panel campaigning to reorganize Lucas County into a home-rule government, addresses the Sylvania City Council meeting.

The Blade/Lori King
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A group that is campaigning to reorganize Lucas County into a home-rule government with an elected county executive made its pitch to Sylvania City Council Monday night, asking for feedback and questions, but not requesting immediate decisions or endorsements.

Just before the meeting in council chambers, Richard Ruppert, one of four group members who attended the session, said it was the first time that they have made a presentation to a council in the county; he said four or five other such sessions are being set up.

“The purpose is to educate and to inform the people. Our goal is to ask people to listen. We don’t need them to make a decision immediately. There will be time for that,” he said.

In addition to Dr. Ruppert, former president of the former Medical College of Ohio, the other volunteer panel members who attended the Sylvania council meeting were Neema Bell, a partner in the law firm of Shumaker Loop & Kendrick; Robert Reinbolt, chief of staff under former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, and Thomas Palmer, a partner in the law firm Marshall & Melhorn.

The group is going from community to community to promote the plan to the public, after which they would raise funds and collect signatures to put a question to the voters in the November, 2012, election.

Following an eight-month study period, the Lucas County Citizen Review in June proposed a detailed plan that, if approved, would make Lucas County the third county in Ohio with a charter form of government.

The question being asked, said Mr. Palmer, is whether there is a better way to conduct county government in Lucas County, and if the people, after considering the proposed plan, decide the answer is yes, then the plan can be adopted.

The plan calls for the traditional structure of county commissioners and row officers to be replaced with an elected county executive and an elected county council, along with an elected prosecutor. The council would have six district members and three at-large members.

Most of the functions now done by the elected auditor, coroner, clerk of courts, engineer, recorder, sheriff, and treasurer would be taken over by appointees of the county executive, with confirmation by county council.

Kevin-Haddad-Sylvania-Township-trustee-asks-question

Kevin Haddad, a Sylvania Township trustee, leaves the lectern after asking a question about the proposed reform. Members of city council also asked questions.

The Blade/Lori King
Enlarge | Buy This Image

The plan is similar to one adopted by Cuyahoga County voters in 2009. Summit County also has a county charter, but with more elected officials than Cuyahoga County.

Here in Lucas County, the volunteer team is to meet with organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, chambers of commerce, city and village councils, township boards of trustees, and other business and community organizations as it begins its phase of educating voters.

Sylvania council members had several questions about the proposal, such as how much it would cost to pay the county executive and the elected county council and whether the county would be able to make laws. When council members asked questions, mostly they were told “we will get back to you” because the answers remain unclear at this point.

Sylvania Councilman Doug Haynam said after the meeting that city council already makes laws, and he hasn’t made up his mind whether a county charter would be a good idea.

Mr. Haynam said he remains skeptical, and said that he is asking Mr. Palmer, Dr. Ruppert, and the others in the group to provide additional details.

“I am asking them to convince us that this is better and it would be more efficient. I will keep an open mind, but convince me,” he said.

Proponents say that the change would give county residents more local control and would streamline government functions, creating accountability and giving residents a chance to influence policy.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.

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