Muscogee County voters will be asked to approve or decline six proposed changes to the city's charter on Nov. 6.
Every 10 years, a 25-member charter review commission is appointed by the mayor and Columbus Council to recommend any changes that might need to be made in what is basically the city's constitution.
This year's commission, chaired by John Shinkle, met 13 times over about a year and originally recommended seven changes. But because of what Shinkle referred to as "outside political pressure," the commission reconvened and reconsidered the most controversial of its recommendations. At that meeting, which involved 17 of the 25 members, a proposal to allow council to impose a $500 basic service fee to all property owners, ostensibly to make up for people who pay little or no property tax due to the property tax assessment freeze, was removed from the ballot.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson had been a vocal opponent of that proposal, saying it was a "backdoor" approach to remedying the freeze, and that she would prefer to attack it head on instead of "wallpapering over it."
The six proposals that will be on the ballot are:
To add a third manner in which top city executives can be dismissed. Currently, and under the proposal, executives can be fired by seven votes of council or by the mayor's recommendation and six votes of council. The proposed amendment would allow the mayor to fire top executives, who could then appeal to council. If six councilors agree with the dismissal, it would stand. Otherwise, the executive would keep his or her job. The amendment also lists those officials to which it would apply: the city manager, city attorney, police chief, fire chief and county prison warden. The internal auditor was originally among those affected, but the commission voted to remove that position from the list.
To change the wording in the section dealing with Columbus Council's responsibilities, requiring council to meet at least twice a month.
To require that council district lines be determined by a decennial districting commission, subject to council approval, and that the final grand jury of each decennial year nominate four voters from each of the eight council districts for the commission.
To provide that if a state law applies to both cities and counties, council would have the power to choose to apply the option that is more beneficial to Columbus.
To prohibit any former mayor or former councilor from holding any compensated appointed office in the Consolidated Government until a year after his or her term of office expires.
To allow employees of the Consolidated Government to seek and hold elected office in counties other than Muscogee. They are currently prohibited from holding any elected office.