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.”
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.