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Are Canfield's charter amendments necessary?

October 30, 2013
The Town Crier

A wise man once said, "Change is inevitableexcept from a vending machine." However, with reference to the two proposed charter amendments on this November ballot, I have to ask, "Is this change really necessary"?

Canfield has for the most part, through the years, maintained a strong commitment to its rich historic background. The city boasts of its mainly residential and light business community. The city leaders pride themselves for their quest to maintain the historic atmosphere so evident while traveling in and around the community. The Canfield community boasts of our superior school system, public works department, and safety services. Even throughout the most recent financial crisis, the loss of the local government funding and the estate tax, the city of Canfield maintained strong fiscal management and continued services without interruption. All of this was not accomplished by accident. The community has elected strong leaders who care, and the necessary tools in the city's charter to govern the community.

Last year, the voters elected to support term limits for Canfield City Council and the mayor of the city, and added (whether they knew it or not) the stipulation that anyone running in the November 2013 election for one of the mentioned offices could not have any political experience within the last six years. (I am personally unaware of any other position - public or private - that has as a requirement for the job seeker that they have no experience to be eligible for consideration for the position). The result of this change left the city with one candidate for each of the vacant offices. An election with no opposition, hardly gives the voters much choice and candidates with no experience hardly promise increased productivity. Much of the new biennium will assuredly be spent in orientation.

This November, there are two additional charter amendments on the ballot. Both of these proposed amendments will have similar deleterious effects on continuity and progress of Canfield city business as did those passed in the prior election. The first proposed charter amendment would impose term limits on committee and board members, while the second charter amendment would enable the public to participate in any discussion, during all aspects of any committee or board meeting regardless of the point of discussion rendering information gathering and sharing difficult at best. Just as council and the mayor are elected by the residents of the city of Canfield to represent the citizens, the members of boards and commissions are selected by the elected officials to represent the community at large. The biggest deterrent of term limits is the loss of institutional knowledge. Those members of boards and commissions with longevity have the knowledge and ability to reflect on the community's preferences and aversions based on their experience and historic data. Other negative aspects of term limits are reducing the number of qualified professionals to serve on the various committees and boards. In my opinion, term limitation is already built into the democratic process. If an elected candidate fails to perform satisfactorily, the process allows the voters to dismiss him or her by voting them out. Term limitations not only assure ridding the community of subpar elected officials but the best and the brightest as well.

As a community leader, I feel it is my duty to strongly urge the residents of the city of Canfield to assess the effects of any charter amendment, both good and bad, and vote accordingly on the two proposed and all future city charter amendments.

Joseph V. Warino PE, PS, F.NSPE

Canfield City Manager



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