Ohio Supreme Court Rules Against the City of Maple Heights
Today the Ohio Supreme Court granted the writ of mandamus requested by the Petitioners for a Traffic Camera Charter Amendment to appear on the November 4, 2014 ballot after City Council refused to pass an ordinance to place it there themselves. The unanimous brief argues that Maple Heights City Council had two weeks in which to act after the signatures were verified by the Board of Elections, but did not act “forthwith” (immediately), instead the legislation was referred to committee of the whole meeting and the deadline to submit a Charter Amendment to the Cuyahoga Board of Elections passed.
If it isn’t enough that the cameras will likely be voted out by residents (as they almost always are when electors are given the opportunity), the court also ordered that the already cash strapped City pay the petitioners’ lawyers’ fees. The lawsuit and subsequent fees could have been avoided if Maple Heights City Council, like that of Cleveland, had honored the petitioners request and in doing so shown respect to the citizens of this grass roots movement equaling 20% of electors in last November’s general election.
Writing on the Wall
On August 18, Councilman Brownlee first sent an email to the Law Director, John Montello, and his fellow council members admonishing them to place the Charter Amendment on the November Ballot.
It is apparent that the administration and Council would like to keep the revenue from the traffic cameras. Nonetheless, I must warn against trying to stop this Charter Amendment Initiation from reaching the ballot box in a timely fashion. To do so would only display disdain for the people of Maple Heights and trample upon due process.
Once the Board of Elections certifies the signatures, we must act quickly to place this amendment on the ballot in November. If we do not, we will need to call a special election for this issue, or face a lawsuit. (See page 6-5 of the Handbook.)
Members of Council have said many times before that we must “let the people decide.” The people of our City have spoken; it is our duty to listen.
More of Councilman Brownlee’s letter can be found in Traffic Camera Hits Speed Bump.
Maple Heights Council Ill-advised by Law Director
On August 26, 2014, Maple Heights Law Director, John Montello, sent Council a letter advising Council that the petition committee had not obtained enough signatures for a charter amendment, but had enough for an initiative petition and outlined that lengthy process for Council. Near the conclusion of the letter he advises council that it was not the intention of the writers of the charter “to allow the will of a few to override the will of the majority.”
Councilman Brownlee Stands Alone
At the September 3, 2014 Council Meeting the Ordinance was put straight into committee, without discussion, by Council President, Albers (21:13). Councilman Brownlee tried for several minutes to be acknowledge by the Chair. When he finally was acknowledge he moved for the ordinance to be reconsidered, but no other members of council seconded his motion (25:11). Then again in his closing remarks (4:53), after telling residents that the city was being sued, a report which should have been given by the law director, he told his fellow council members that they could still pull the ordinance out of committee and pass the ordinance to place it on the ballot (8:50)
What Happens Now?
Now, that City Council is forced to allow residents to vote for or against the cameras, some members of council are going to ask the residents to vote for the cameras.