Nelsonville Residents Propose Initiative to Dump City’s Charter

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NELSONVILLE, Ohio – If certified by the Athens County Board of Elections, Nelsonville city residents could be voting this November on whether or not to return the city to a statutory form of government.

On Monday, petitions were filed with the Nelsonville clerk of council to get an initiative on the general election ballot. The petitions will be submitted to the elections board 10 days after submission to the city.

A group of citizens, including Ed Mash and Vicki McDonald, have been collecting signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. According to Mash, 105 signatures were needed to get the initiative on the ballot and more than 170 signatures were submitted during Monday’s Nelsonville City Council meeting.

Residents voted in favor of a charter form of government back in 1994. The charter then went into effect Jan. 1, 1995. Under the charter, there are seven Council members who then appoint a city manager and city attorney. In addition to Council members, the city’s auditor and treasurer are also elected by the voters.

According to Mash, there are a number of residents in the city that would prefer to have an elected mayor instead of an appointed city manager. However, he said the proposed initiative isn’t necessarily an indication that residents aren’t happy with City Manager Mark Hall.

“This is nothing against the city manager and Council. We want one person we can go to and get answers,” Mash said. He noted that City Council is essentially operating the city and often there aren’t enough people running for those seven seats.

“And there’s a lot of people who don’t feel like they’ve been fairly represented on Council,” he said, adding that he himself plans to run for City Council this fall.

According to Mash, when problems in the city arise, there is often a lot of blame being thrown around to different individuals in the city. He said he believes the city would operate better if it had an elected mayor chosen by the residents.

“These people (Council) have too much power,” said McDonald. “They don’t have to care about what the citizens want or how they feel. They do what they want to do and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”

McDonald said that a mayor could veto legislation passed by Council and that if the residents weren’t happy with the mayor, that individual could be voted out in four years.

Additionally, Mash said that residents know that the downtown area is essential to the city, however investments also need to be made in the city’s neighborhoods. He said infrastructure is in need of improvements, which he said he believes will ultimately lead to better housing and neighborhoods in the city.

“We can’t just be a historic town,” Mash said. “I want to see the town improved for my grandchildren.”

“If it’s on the ballot in November, I’m sure our form of government will change,” McDonald said. “Maybe the charter was good in the beginning but it has changed and it’s not working for the people. I’m hoping it will be a better move.”

If certified for the ballot and passed by the voters, the city would revert back to a statutory form of government effective Dec. 31, 2015.