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Charter Review Commission Hears From Public

How many people should sit on city council? Currently it's 21 - too many? Do civil servants need more protections? And, is the charter review commission doing all it can to bring the public into the process? Those were some of the hottest issues on the minds of upwards of 40 citizens who turned out to the first of three hearings on how - and whether - to change the workings of city government.

With Council President Martin Sweeney laying out his proposal for a smaller council today, the citizens last night had their own ideas.

Rick Nagin had this proposal:

NAGIN: That the council not be reduced, and that terms be reduced to 2 years, and that people have the right to speak at council meetings. I think those are very good proposals.

In contrast, one speaker called for just 7 wards, and 4 at-large council members. Another urged the commission to look at research on how council size has affected other cities.

Ohio City resident Jon Eckerle advocated streamlining city services so that, no matter how many council members there are, they won't have to deal with as many routine issues.

ECKERLE: You take away the potholes, you take away the other things they're doing, maybe they could actually do important things.

Some city employees also weighed in. In fact, civil service workers were among the most vocal and impassioned speakers. John Zindrosky worries that skilled jobs like operating machinery are going to under-trained workers. He wants assurances written into the charter that civil servants be qualified for their jobs.

ZINDROSKY: I want to have a person working with me who knows how to run a machine. Not guessing. We had a man killed two Fridays ago on 161st st, who was not trained properly-hit with a limb and killed.

Commission member and community activist Bill Callahan says he doesn't think the union workers need to be so worried.

CALLAHAN: I don't think there's any big appetite on the commission to be stripping people of their civil service protection, but I also don't think there's a lot of expertise on what's happening in the real world. So we're going to have to try and sort that out.

Along with Callahan, about half the members of the charter review commission attended the hearing last night. They've been meeting weekly since January but this was the first of three public hearings as they work toward firming up proposals to send onto city council.

That too became an issue last night. A number of people complained that the commission is not doing enough to publicize the process effectively and asked that proposed changes to the charter be made more accessible to the public-especially those without computers.