From The Vaults

Ron Alban, Citizens For A Better Kettering, Disputes Claims By Kettering Mayor Don Patterson Concerning Issues 31-35


CBK tri-fold mailed to Kettering households urges a NO vote on Issue 36 — to reject, “the Commission Scheme,” and to reject, “bundling of unrelated proposals.”

This morning I met with Ron Alban, spokesperson and leader of Citizens For A Better Kettering (CBK). Alban explained that up until late May the group had no intention of putting proposals on the ballot to change Kettering’s City Charter and it was only after the Kettering Charter Review Committee surprise proposal to modify term limits (Issue 36) that his group responded with Issues 31-35.  (See: In This Coming Election, Kettering Voters Have Six Choices — Issues 31-36 — To Change The Kettering City Charter)

Four years ago, Citizens For a Better Kettering succeeded in passing two big changes to the Kettering Charter. Voters (62%) specified that the mayor and council members would be limited to two consecutive four year terms and voters (55%) reduced the pay of the mayor and council 50%.

Alban says on May 20 he learned for the first time that a mayor’s Charter Review Committee even existed and only then did he learn that this committee was recommending to eliminate term limits for the mayor and to increase the limit on Council members from two consecutive terms to three consecutive terms. Alban, in an opinion piece published in the DDN, writes,“The Council’s effort to undo term limits is deceptive and disrespectful.”

Urging a YES vote on Issue 36 and NO on Issue 31-35 is a pac called “weRkettering”. This mailing charges that “Issue 31-35 are restricting our form of government.”

Don Patterson, Kettering’s mayor, in an article published by the DDN , wrote that Issues 31-35 are, “of great concern to me.” Patterson in that article makes the accusation that Issues 31-35 “are not truly driven by Kettering residents like our Charter Review Committee was.”

Alban responded to Patterson’s accusation by explaining that in 2012 his group started in January to raise money and get signatures, but, because the work of the Kettering Charter Review Committee came in late May as a big surprise, his group had only a short time to meet a deadline to raise money and get signatures. Alban figured he would need $30,000 for a credible campaign. He requested help from a national group called US Term Limits, a 501C(4) tax exempt organization dedicated to promoting term limits nationwide. He received a grant of $10,000. He says other contributions came from Kettering residents, including a $1000 contribution from former mayor Dick Hartman and a $2000 contribution from former mayor Chuck Horn.

Alban says CBK had 60 volunteers who collected 1350 signatures in three weeks, but in order to get sufficient signatures by the deadline, CBK contracted with a company that organized paid solicitors to get the remainder of the signatures. Eventually CBK had a total of 3190 signatures — a comfortable cushion above the 1879 signatures that were required. (This is 10% of Kettering votes in the last gubernatorial election.)

Patterson in the DDN article also claimed that the changes to the Charter called for in Issues 31-35, “are unnecessary and involve the potential for significant additional cost to Kettering taxpayers If they are approved.” The additional costs Patterson referred to pertains to Issues 32 and 34.

Issue 32 empowers citizens to bring suit against the city — specifically for failure to follow the charter — providing for litigation expense if the suit wins. Alban says that Issue 32 simply assures that the charter will be followed and does not open the door to litigation concerning other matters. Alban indicates that if Issue 32 is approved, he feels that the city will comply with the charter and that there would be no need for legal action.

Issue 34 requires that every two years the city send a mailing to all Kettering residents showing the salary / benefits of 45 Kettering city employees (by job position, not name) — 15 at the top, 15 at the middle, 15 at the bottom. (The city has about 400 employees.) Patterson in his DDN article says that “the printing and postage of such a report would cost at least $10,000 per year.” Alban says that Patterson’s estimate is way off and that he feels that a more realistic cost would be only $5000 per mailing, or only $2500 per year. Alban indicates that when over 70% of the city’s budget ($100 million over two years) goes to salary / benefits, this transparency would be well worth the cost.

Issue 36 bundles six amendments into one Issue. Alban sees this as “an effort to confuse voters.” He writes, “The Ohio Constitution bans the bundling of unrelated proposals for statewide issues, but ambiguity in the law on local issues provides a loophole for local officials to get away with this practice.” Alban says, “CBK asked council members not to bundle, but they voted 7-0 to do so.”

I enjoyed my visit with Ron Alban today and I hope to continue my conversation with him in the near future. I was sorry that my camera was temporarily on the fritz and I couldn’t get a picture, but maybe next time. I also intend on contacting Mayor Patterson or other supporters of Issue 36 and continue writing about these issues in the near future.

Alban predicts that the public will support the efforts of Citizens For A Better Kettering. He is predicting that Issues 31-35 will be approved and that Issue 36 will be rejected.


3 comments to Ron Alban, Citizens For A Better Kettering, Disputes Claims By Kettering Mayor Don Patterson Concerning Issues 31-35

  • Fred schindler

    Issues 31-35 if passed will hamstring council and cost Kettering tax payers more in legal
    Expenses. City employees receiving extra pay not due them should be investigated . Most
    City workers are not big wage earners and
    Should not be subject to public posting of
    Their salaries unless there is a proven
    Problem or fraud. Issue 36 should be passed
    As City Council members who have done a
    Good job representing citizens interests
    Should not be denied the ability to serve.
    This makes no sense whatsoever.

  • Mike Bock

    Fred, thanks for commenting.

    Yes, the issues offered by Citizens For A Better Kettering curtails the power of the Kettering City Council. Issue 31 forbids the Council from taking any action on “term limitations (Section 3-10), compensation (Section 3-5) or initiative, referendum and recall.” Issue 32 empowers citizens to hold Council accountable to following the charter. Issue 35 forbids the Council from naming replacements to the Council in the event of death or resignation of a Council member. These issues, it seems, are a response to the Counsel’s action to write Issue 36 without regard consulting with or even informing Citizens For a Better Kettering about this action. These actions by the Counsel are seen by this group of citizens who worked hard to pass term limits four years ago as “deceptive and disrespectful.”

    Given the way the Issue 36 came about, I can understand why CBK determined that some of the power of the Council needed to be given to the electorate. It sounds like tit for tat. I’ve got to think that if the Council had been a little more accommodating to the CBK — unbundling the term limit modification from the other items in Issue 36, for example — these issues to limit the authority of the Council may never have been initiated. I don’t think that it will much impact the work of the Council whether Issues 31, 32 and 35 are approved or not.

    Issue 34 requires that every two years the city send a mailing to all Kettering residents showing the salary / benefits of 45 Kettering city employees — 15 at the top, 15 at the middle, 15 at the bottom. The language of Issue 34 says what will be contained on this list will be “the position title of each such employee.” As I read it, the names and addresses of the employees will not be part of this report. I should have asked Ron Alban when I had the chance. Is this type of transparency of government — reports sent to each household — something that the voting public should have? Will this make Kettering democracy better? I’m inclined to think that the more transparency the better, but I’ve not fully decided yet to vote YES on Issue 34.

    Issue 36 deals with term limits. Ohio voters approved term limits in 1992 for the State Assembly and for the governor and other state-wide office holders. I can see no evidence that these 24 years of this public policy have resulted in any improvement in the quality of the Assembly, so I doubt term limits at a City Council level is a good idea. In a vigorous democracy there is no need for term limits and the push for limits indicates a loss of faith in the strength of our democracy. Some citizens will vote NO on Issue 36 because they resent the manner the decision was made to overturn the voters decisions from just four years ago and therefore see a NO vote on Issue 36 as a way of reprimanding that process.

  • Randal Young

    Saying that issues 31-35 would hamstring council is a cheap argument. The statutes in these issues will simply require council to do its job of operating the city on a upright, transparent, and ultimately voter centered fashion. What very little this may cost to send a few mailings out to help keep the citizenry informed, or to spend a little more time at meetings allowing citizens to speak, I think would be well worth the value. If the city does its job, it won’t have to pay for a lawsuit, if however it fails then, rightly so, it will have to pay for legal costs that a citizen incurred to right a wrong.

    If folks, such as the mayor and council members, wish to continue to serve the city, there is NOTHING in term limits that would keep them from doing so. It just simply means they will serve in another area and in another capacity and there are NO LIMITS in the other areas needing dedicated folks to serve in.

    The one comment above says that “I can see no evidence that these 24 years of (term limits in state gov’t) have resulted in improvements to the quality of the Assembly, so I doubt term limits at a City Council level is a good idea”. Key words here are “I doubt”. You have no proof one way of the other. Ohio does however have a great record for the most part showing that our gov’t has worked very well in spite of the doom and gloom folks who promised our state would go down the drain if term limits were established. Nothing the last two years in Kettering Council’s operation that would suggest term limits have degraded our services.

    There is no loss of faith in our democracy, rather there is the acknowledgment that special interests have a huge capacity to raise money for candidates who they can buy and keep in office. Non-incumbent candidates doesn’t have a level playing field to engage the political system on.

    You are absolutely correct in saying folks will vote NO on issue 36 because of the underhanded way council and the mayor chose to try to over turn what the voters had already decided by a wide margin. You just made my case to voting for 31-35 and NO and 36 better than I could.

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