Murray: 5 would be better than 7

Smith: "I see no value to the city of Sandusky or the citizens of Sandusky in reducing the number of commissioners"
Andy Ouriel
Feb 17, 2014
Many people often complain government’s too big, whether in Washington, Columbus or even Sandusky.

Unfortunately for some, the number of elected state and federal positions likely won’t decrease anytime soon.

But at the local level, several Sandusky city commissioners actually support downsizing their own board.

Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. recently pushed forward legislation that would reduce the number of commissioners from seven to five. Murray’s one of seven elected commissioners.    

For this to occur, however, these triggers must happen:

1. At least four of the seven commissioners would need to approve Murray’s proposal through a public vote.

2. Residents, during an election, would determine whether they want either five or seven commissioners. A vote during an election could occur as soon as November.

Hypothetically, if approved, the soonest a change could happen would be in fall 2015, when four of seven city commission seats are up for election. These terms would start in January.

“Instead of four positions being elected, two would be elected,” Murray said. “Commissioners will still have four-year terms and be elected on a staggered basis “

Among the commissioners up for election come fall 2015: Jeff Smith, Wes Poole and Keith Grohe.

Commissioner Julie Farrar can’t run again because of term limits, making her seat open for someone else to occupy.

Murray along with commissioners Dick Brady and Naomi Twine just won four-year terms, beginning in January, and can remain on commission through 2017.

Since 1980, city commission has been comprised of seven Sandusky residents. Before 1980, five people served as commissioners.

Five commissioners, versus seven, could also mean each elected official obtains a small boost in pay. Commissioners today make about $5,200 a year, or $100 a week, with the ex officio mayor receiving $6,400 annually.

Any salary shed from two fewer officials would be divvied up between the remaining five commissioners.

The Register asked all seven commissioners for their opinion on the proposed change and whether they support this measure.

Here are the responses:

“I am strongly in favor of this legislation. Seven-member commissions have proven in the past to be difficult to gain a consensus on. As part-time legislators, we are required to spend a lot of time lobbying our fellow commissioners on the merits of actions that affect our city. I believe that reducing our numbers will encourage competent people to seek these offices, knowing that they can create positive change with the support of only two fellow commissioners (three out of five for a consensus)”

— Dick Brady

“I am in full support of reducing the size of commission. I feel going to five commissioners is much more manageable. You will spend less time trying to rally support for issues, and you will also be able to handle the city’s business more swiftly with less people”

— Julie Farrar

“Larger groups tend to allow some members to ‘hide’ and also are more likely to splinter. By contrast, smaller groups are more likely to achieve consensus. When you combine that with the fact that the composition of this particular group usually changes every two years, it is more difficult for the group to be cohesive”

— Dennis Murray Jr., ex officio mayor

“Salary increase and reducing the size of commission are two separate ballot issues. Both should be approved for terms beginning in 2016. Reduce the commission by two. Divide the salaries saved between the five. There will be no cost increase to the citizens”

— Wes Poole

“Citizens want representation within our city government. Reducing the amount of commissioners will reduce their representation. I see no value to the city of Sandusky or the citizens of Sandusky in reducing the number of commissioners. The main issues that top the list from citizens are neighborhoods and jobs. In my discussions with citizens, reduction of commission has never come up”

— Jeff Smith

“Sandusky has consistently lost population since a high of approximately 33,000 people in 1970 to a current estimate of approximately 25,000 people (today). Based upon the decrease in population, it would seem reasonable to lessen the number of commissioners. Also, as people who work with other people know, it’s easier to get a smaller group going in the same direction than trying to get a larger group on the same page”

— Naomi Twine

Commissioner Keith Grohe did not respond to this request. He hasn’t attended a city commission meeting for several months because of health reasons.

Comments

Babo

A smaller commission will make it even easier for special interests to control the Commission than now. It makes more sense to move to a ward system to ensure better representation of all residents' interests.

wetsu

I generally agree with your statement, Babo. Although there are a couple of doozy ward reps here in Lima it tends to work for the reason you listed. OTOH, Lima has a strong mayor concept which Sandusky lacks. While I obviously no longer reside in Sandusky I believe that the strong mayor concept has advantages over Sandusky's present approach. Aside from I-75 running through the east side of town Lima has few advantages over Sandusky and seems to hold its own comparatively.

reader

Perhaps the 2 commissioners unable to vote on an increase in the admissions tax can step aside and let the other 5 get down to business.

Darkhorse

Seven are better because there are a lot of commissioners that cannot function because they have so many potential conflicts of interest that they would have to abstain half the time on things going on in the city.

SamAdams

Why the great value on "consensus?" If answers are obvious, you'll have consensus whether you've got 5 commissioners or 15 of them. If answers AREN'T obvious, the more points of view we have, the better. Besides, Smith has a valid point: This isn't shrinking government (note how the cost doesn't change -- remaining Commissioners would get raises!), but it IS shrinking representation!

milemarkerzero

I'm all for the 5 commission limit. But place the saved $$$$ somewhere besides in the pockets of the remaining 5. After all, there are layoffs looming.

YoMamma

Who had the brain fart to give the 5 remaining a raise? They never cease to amaze me!

Factitious

So, if I'm reading this right, no one's saying five nincompoops will make better decisions than seven; they'll just make bad decisions faster.

I think I'd vote for 21 commissioners.

whattheBucks

Yes, 5 is better then 7 but not as good as 0 ! Why don't we go to the mayor system like all the other city's ?

Julie R.

Better be careful what you wish for with the mayor system. Just imagine this scenerio:

Your city law director, Don Iscman, belongs to a big Lorain County law firm and his law firm handles all (or a good majority) of the legal issues for the city of Sandusky ...... but the mayor, law director, and his Lorain County law firm refuse to provide itemized copies of what the law firm is charging the Sandusky taxpayers.

Didn't the above happen in Vermilion with the mayor system? (see Jean Anderson's lawsuit against the city of Vermilion)

sandusky2012

MURRAY 4 MAYOR JUST DO LIKE CONSECO!!!!!

pavedparadise

Look your an ulterior motive here.