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Smart Voter
Hamilton County, OH November 3, 2009 Election
Issue 8
Proposed Charter Amendment
City of Cincinnati

Majority Approval Required

Pass: 41,425 / 60.77% Yes votes ...... 26,744 / 39.23% No votes

See Also: Index of all Issues

Information shown below: Summary |

Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to prohibit the city, and its various boards and commissions, from transferring or selling any assets of the City of Cincinnati, or any of its boards or commissions, to any regional water district, or any regional water and sewer district, formed pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6119, without first submitting the question of the approval of such transfer or sale of assets to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same, by enacting new Article XV? YES NO

Summary Prepared by League of Women Voters:
Explanation: The proposal if approved would amend the Charter of the City of Cincinnati by adding a new article. The proposed article would require the approval of City voters before the sale or transfer of any assets of the City of Cincinnati or its Boards or Commissions to any regional water district, or any regional water or sewer district, formed under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6119. This proposed Charter amendment was placed on the ballot through an initiative petition process that gathered sufficient qualified signatures requiring City Council to place the issue on the November 2009 ballot.

What the amendment would do: If passed, the new Charter article would require the City to hold an election for the purpose of asking voter approval before the sale or transfer of any City assets to a newly created greater Cincinnati regional water or regional water or sewer district formed under Ohio Revised Code 6119. This proposed amendment seeking voter approval would be a new requirement in addition to provisions of ORC 6119. Petitioners view the water works as a major public asset which should necessitate voter approval before the sale of assets to a regional water district. This Charter amendment is the effective means to require a vote before a sale of assets to a newly formed regional water district.

Background: The proposed amendment to the City Charter is in response to a report to City Council by the City Manager. The report recommended transition of the Greater Cincinnati Water Works to a Regional Water District based on the recommendations of a 14 month Water District Study Group. The water district would pay the City for the assets of the water works over 75 years. According to Ohio law, the funds could be applied only to "permanent improvements," that is, infrastructure in the City.

City Council has not authorized a petition process to the Court of Common Pleas which would initiate proceedings for the organization of a regional water district; the proceedings would last about 18 months and would include several public hearings.

Under Ohio Law, ORC 6119, proceedings for the organization of a regional water district are initiated only by a petition to the County Court of Common Pleas authorized by the municipality or legislative authority. The Court reviews the petition and initiates proceedings which include public hearings before issuing a preliminary order declaring the district to be organized for the purpose of electing and appointing personnel and filing a plan for the operation of the district within 6 months or a time determined by the court. After the plan is filed and reviewed, a final hearing is held to hear objections to the final organization of the district or the plan for the operation of the district. The court determines if the proposed district and the plan for its operation are conducive to the public health, safety, convenience, and welfare and is economical, feasible, fair and reasonable. Then the court deals with any objections and may modify the petition. The court also may require additional studies and a review of findings. The court declares the district finally organized. Greater Cincinnati Water Works (GCWW), a municipally owned and operated utility, was purchased by the City of Cincinnati from a private owner in 1839. GCWW provides water service to the City of Cincinnati, most of Hamilton County, and areas in Butler and Warren Counties. GCWW also sells water to Boone County and the City of Florence in Northern Kentucky, via a pipeline installed under the Ohio River. The GCWW is a City Department under the Office of the City Manager. Fees customers pay for water service are deposited into the water works fund, an enterprise fund. By law revenues must remain in that fund and may not be used for general City operations such as salaries.

Proponents Say:

  • Adding a requirement in the City Charter will ensure that voters will be asked for their approval before the sale of a major asset such as the Water Works.
  • The City of Cincinnati should retain direct control of the Water Works including authority to set water rates and assure delivery of high quality water.
  • The loss of water works employee contributions to the City's retirement system may destabilize the system and require increased contributions by the City in the future.
  • This Charter Amendment petition process that successfully gathered sufficient signatures of City voters is democracy at work.

Opponents Say:
  • A charter amendment is unnecessary since Ohio law already provides for citizen comment and involvement in the establishment of a regional water district by requiring public hearings and the satisfactory resolution of any objections.
  • Requiring a vote of the electorate before sale or transfer of assets is micro management of government and an interference with the Council Manager form of government where a city manager manages and makes recommendations for council action.
  • The City Charter should not be cluttered with specific provisions prohibiting narrowly specified areas of City Council legislative authority and responsibility.
  • This Charter Amendment would halt and prevent a full and vigorous public discussion about maintenance of the water system and delivery of water services.

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Created: December 29, 2009 12:11 PST
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