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Local News

November 8, 2008

Heath ‘citizens’ remain so; allow mayor to vote and add council seat

Heath’s voters are still citizens, rather than villagers, since they denied proposition 1 which would have changed the word “city” to “village” in the City Charter.

They supported proposition 2, which adds a sixth seat to council, and gives the mayor the right to vote.

These decisions were made by approximately 3,500 voters, which is almost half of Heath’s population count.

Mayor John Ratcliffe was asked for his thoughts on the outcome, which he shared Wednesday.

“As to proposition 2, we felt this was an important change to make to eliminate potential problems that might hinder the effectiveness of future city councils.

“Under the original charter from 2002, the Mayor does not vote, but does have veto power. Fortunately for me, this Council has shown great deference to me to speak and influence issues without voting. Likewise, because of that and because we have been remarkably cohesive and unified on most issues, I have not felt the need to exercise a strong veto that requires a supermajority to override.

“It has been obvious to all of us, however, that potential for problems at both ends — either ‘freezing out’ the mayor altogether at one extreme, or the overuse of veto authority at the other extreme — could arise in the future if there was a less cohesive council or a more combative mayor.

“This change preserves the Mayor’s ability to control the agenda and serve as the head of city government, but provides for more level voting powers for all council members.

“This will take effect next May after the new open seat is filled by election, thereby increasing the voting members to seven, which reduces the possibilities of ties only to instances where less than a full council is present to vote.

“The results of Prop 1 for village versus city designation will have no impact whatsoever on city land use planning or any other government function. This was essentially a referendum put to the voters after the long-term planning committee comprised of more than a dozen Heath residents made recommendations that a ‘village or town’ atmosphere was preferred.

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