The mayor and his administration and the Charter Revision Commission have been busy proposing sweeping changes to various policies and ordinances of the city. Numerous important proposed changes are before the Public Services Committee regarding the ethics ordinances in City Ordinance Chapter 12 1/2, city council organization and procedures in City Ordinance Chapter 2, fraud policies coming out of the Audit Committee, recodification of ordinances, etc.
There is a another ordinance revision up for consideration at the City Council meeting on Monday, January 17th. The first reading pertains to revisions of Chapter 14 relating to campaign finance for municipal elections. This ordinance amendment was first on the January 9th Public Services Committee agenda. Interim City Clerk Roust stated some of the pieces of this ordinance were just given to the committee at this meeting (relating to the proposed ethics and fraud ordinance and policy) so the councilors on this committee never had to chance to review those fraud/ethics provisions added to this new ordinance revision in advance.
Roust stated that these changes would hit during an election cycle "which is a bit troubling" but went on to talk about the rush to get this on the Council Agenda the following week as a walk in. When concern was expressed by Councilors Anderson and Brown regarding the rush to pass, City Attorney Pfeifle informed them the current ordinances were unconstitutional due to a recent Supreme Court Decision. The concerns folded like a house of cards.
Why would you bring sweeping changing to campaign finance laws months before a city election? From what I am told, the last time changes were made to the campaign finance ordinances, it took the Public Services Committee months to review the changes and to hear public input. Those changes were considered six months or more before any election took place. Interim City Clerk Roust said unfortunately its the 1st time she has been able to look at it. City Attorney Pfeifle said the committee needed to take advantage of Roust's extensive expertise in election matters at the county while they can.
The campaign financing ordinance amendments will have 2nd reading on February 6th and after publication and 20 days will become effective on March 1st. However, candidates can begin to take out petitions for the city council race beginning January 27th. The deadline to submit those petitions is February 24th.
Councilor Brown is term limited, but Councilors Anderson, Karsky and Jamison will probably be running for a seat in the April election. They will be now asked to vote on sweeping changes to the campaign finance ordinance when they will actually be part of the petition process. When asked if it was conflict of interest, City Attorney Pfeifle said no. Does that really pass the smell test? The City Attorney may not have a problem with it but from a perception standard, it should certainly raise eyebrows.
I guess all one has to do is throw out the scare of unconstitutionality to get something on the city council agenda that has had no public input in committee and has had no real study by the Public Services Committee.
It is an interesting way to run the people's business.