City commission votes against moving language change in City Charter to November ballot
After holding an informal public hearing at its Monday meeting, the Mount Pleasant City Commission voted not to move an amendment change that would lower the percentage of signatures needed for residents to move initiatives and referendums to the commission.
Section 3 of Article VI of the city's charter requires initiative and referendum petitions be signed by "qualified, registered electors of the City, equal to not less than 18 percent of the number of votes cast for candidates for the office of governor at the last preceding general election in the city."
If passed, the amendment would stipulate a flat rate of 600 signatures or 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the city for the office of governor in the last general election is needed to move an initiative or referendum to the city commission. The proposed language change would have been added to the November ballot for residents to vote on it.
The motion needed a three-fifths vote to pass — five of the seven commissioners. Only four voted in favor.
Mayor Kathy Ling, Vice Mayor Allison Quast-Lents and commissioners Lori Gillis and Nicholas Madaj supported the motion. Ling, who helped change the percentage to 18 percent as a commissioner in 2008, said the language on the ballot in August 2008 confused the public.
"The public did make the decision," she said. "Looking back at the language on the ballot, I didn't realize how limited the language was in actually explaining the change."
Vice Mayor Quast-Lents and commissioner Gillis both urged their concerns of ensuring the community's opinions are being heard by the city commission.
"If and when we make a decision the community is unhappy with, I'd like (residents) to be able to respond effectively and quickly," Quast-Lents said. "If they decide they are not in favor of this, they have the option to vote it down. It doesn't hurt anything to have it on the (November) ballot."
Commissioner Tony Kulick, who voted against the motion, said the public approved the charter as written by a 2-to-1 vote in 2008.
"I keep hearing, 'it's the voice of the people.' In a republic democracy, the commissioners that are elected, us seven that are sitting here," he said. "In a pure democracy, we wouldn't have commissioners and every night, we would have to have quorum of registered voters to take any action."
Kulick said the City of Mount Pleasant has over 12,000 registered voters and "it should be a high standard to overturn action taken by this commission."
Correction: This article originally did not specify the public hearing was not a formal public hearing. The article originally stated the motion received a three-fourths vote. However, commissioner Nicholas Madaj voted in favor of the motion, tallying four commission members in favor. The article also originally stated Mayor Ling changed the percent on the November 2008 ballot. It was changed to say she changed the percent on the August 2008 ballot.