Salem pursuing idea of charter-style government

SALEM, Ohio (WYTV) – A charter government forum was held Wednesday night in Salem in front of about 50 people at the Salem Community Center. This is in advance of the general election when citizens will vote on whether a charter commission should be formed for a new style of government.

The idea of looking into a charter started earlier this year. It would be different from the current government structure — instead calling for a council to hire a city manager, while the mayor would become a council member.

But how that government is set up will depend on how the commission writes the charter, which is then voted on by residents in November.

“This is our most active effort to actually go to the voters with the question of, ‘Should we actually put a charter together?'” said Dave Nestic, first ward councilman.

On Nov. 8, citizens in Salem will have a chance to decide on whether or not to change the way the city’s government operates.

“What we’re looking at is, ‘Is this structure of government right for us?'” Nestic said. “What are our options and should we look into a charter government?”

Dr. Lawrence Keller, a Cleveland State associate professor, made a 45-minute long presentation to residents explaining the process and what this new form of government could do for them. He also answered questions as the presentation went on.

“Right now they are under the state statutes, so they don’t have any flexibility,” Keller said. “With a city charter, they’ll have flexibility in how they want to structure their government.”

If the vote gets approved this November, that will allow the city to take the first steps toward forming the commission. It would then have a year to write the charter and present it to voters.

“And then they decide whether of not they want to adopt the charter,” Nestic said. “But we can’t even take that step unless we get a ‘yes’ vote in November.”

If citizens vote to approve the charter commission on Election Day, the money will likely come from city council. Fifteen citizens will also serve on the commission out of 22 candidates.

Again, the vote on this ballot is just to form the commission to look deeper into the possibility of a charter.