Fast-track practices get second look by Amherst city council

Staff Report

Councilman Steve Bukovac

Councilman Steve Bukovac

Sometimes even city council needs a quick refresher course.

Amherst legislators took a mid-meeting break Monday at the request of councilman Steve Bukovac to get a handle on how and when laws go into effect.

Under examination is the frequent use of council’s so-called “emergency clause,” which law director Tony Pecora said can be used to skip a 30-day waiting period before any new ordinance becomes law.

Under Ohio statute, residents are supposed to have that 30-day window to formally object to any council decision by collecting signatures and submitting a petition to the Lorain County Board of Elections.

Enough signatures would spark a referendum vote, Pecora said.

Councilman Joe Miller pointed out the waiting period also gives residents a chance to learn about new laws, ask officials how they will personally be affected, and make adjustments.

Mayor Mark Costilow is not a fan of using emergency powers for routine business.

He reminded council that with the first two pieces of legislation he introduced to committee — a new subdivider’s agreement with Oster Construction for Northpointe Estates and revisions to rules about electronic signs — he specifically did not ask for emergency passage.

Also often used is a “suspension of council rules,” which allows council to skip over several weeks worth of votes on pending legislation.

Statute provides for three formal readings (three weeks over a six-week period) of an ordinance once it’s been moved out of committee, but Amherst city council is prone to suspending rules after just one reading.

The new mayor said he wants to slow down the process, allowing more time for public comment. To that end, Costilow said he plans to introduce proposals as far in advance as possible.

A good example is the city’s permanent budget.

For many years, council has passed Amherst’s budget after one committee meeting and a single reading on the floor. Costilow plans to give council his budget numbers Monday, well in front of the necessary March passage date.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

Councilman Steve Bukovac Steve Bukovac

Staff Report