MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — Local leaders will hear from residents about possible changes to the founding document of the city tonight.
Local law demands every 10 years, the city commission must appoint a group to study and recommend possible changes to the city charter. For nearly the past year the city manager, clerk and others have gone through the 54-chapter document and developed six proposals to change the rules governing the city.
“Remove requirements to hold the City Commission organizational meeting at a set day and time.”
Only one meeting a year is required at a specific date and time: the first meeting after an election must be held at 7 p.m. the Monday after an election. Since city commission meetings are now held at 6 p.m., that single meeting is delayed. The amendment proposal reads, “This amendment would remove references to days and times. The dates and times of all meetings, including the annual organizational meeting, will be set by the commission when the meeting calendar is adopted each year.”
“Clarify the anti-nepotism language to include spouses of elected officials.”
According to the proposal, the current language in the charter prohibits the appointment or hiring of relatives of elected city officials or city manager, or the city manager’s spouse. A problem the study group found is the current wording does not explicitly apply to any spouses besides the city manager’s.
“By way of example, the language would prohibit the hiring of a City Commissioner’s child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, half brother or half sister; and it would prohibit the hiring of that City Commissioner’s spouse’s child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, brother, sister, half brother or half sister. It would not prohibit the hiring of the City Commissioner’s spouse,” reads the proposal.
The recommendation is to change the wording to “The City Manager’s spouse and an elective official’s spouse and the following relatives and their spouses of any elective official or of an elected official’s spouse or of the city manager or of the manager’s spouse…”
“Remove term limits associated with appointed boards and committees.”
Right now a resident cannot be reappointed to a city board, commission or committee if they have served in that role for six or more consecutive years, unless two years have passed.
“On the ground, it can be argued that this has led to committee vacancies that the City has been unable to fill, while well-meaning and willing volunteers are ineligible… The City of Marquette has several vacancies, many boards and committees and too few volunteers to bottleneck the process in this way,” argues the study group.
This proposal would remove all language of term limits that apply to people appointed to boards, commissions and committees.
“Remove the month requirements for local elections.”
The current language mandates primary elections in August and general elections in November. However, the study group noted the recent push to change the state’s primary dates. If that happened, there would be a conflict between state and local law. The proposed fix is to have language in the city charter deferring to State Law for those rules and dates.
“Remove the requirements for a local primary election.”
The current rules state a local primary election must be held if there are “valid filings for more than twice the number of candidates for the office to be elected at the following regular city election.”
The group highlights the situation with this example: if 7 candidates file for 3 city commission seats, all 7 names will appear on the primary ballot, and voters will vote for no more than 3. The candidate with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated and the remaining 6 will move on to the general election ballot, where voters will again vote for no more than 3.
The group sees two issues with the status quo. The first is that since the state mandates candidates file for a local primary election about 15 weeks before the vote. If the state and local primary dates were moved back, people hoping to run would have to file that much earlier.
The second issue is the cost of these local primaries, which can cost over $32,000. The group argues half the time only one candidate gets eliminated, and in every recent primary, the candidates that received the most votes in the primary also received the most votes in the general.
“Remove the requirement to publish full ordinances in the newspaper.”
The current rules mandate adopted ordinances be printed either in full or in summary in the newspaper. The group argues the cost of newspaper ads are high, and it is counterproductive to “force ourselves to publish lengthy legal ads needlessly.”
The amendment would instead the City would publish a summary or statement of purpose as well as announcing the availability of the full text at the Clerk’s Office.