WELLINGTON — Citizens for Equal Representation, a group trying to reform Lorain County government, plans to launch its petition drive to make it on the 2014 ballot at the Lorain County Fair next week.
Elyria City Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large, said his group plans to have a booth at the fair and will distribute information and begin gathering the signatures necessary to put the issue before voters.
Baird said that the fair makes sense as a good place to start gathering signatures because it’s the largest gathering of county residents during the year.
Lorain County Board of Elections Director Paul Adams said backers of county government reform need to obtain valid signatures from 9,944 registered voters to get the measure on the ballot.
Baird said his group’s goal is far higher than that.
“We’re looking to get 15,000 as a goal because you always have some that aren’t valid,” he said.
The proposed reform, spearheaded by Baird, Elyria Democratic Party Chairman Mark Stewart and others, would dramatically change how county government operates.
Instead of three elected county commissioners, the plan calls for the county to be divided into seven separate districts each of which would elect its own representative. Although the county prosecutor, sheriff and auditor would remain separate elected positions, the jobs of other county officials who now stand for election every four years, such as the recorder and treasurer, would become appointed positions.
If the measure wins the approval of voters next year, it wouldn’t go into effect immediately, Baird said. Instead, the first elections for the officials would be in 2016 with those who win taking office in 2017.
Baird said there’s no scandal driving the reform as there was in Cuyahoga County, where voters created a county council and elected a county executive in the wake of a massive corruption scandal that led to the convictions of dozens of county officials, workers and vendors.
Instead, he said it’s more about improving representation.
“We want to get areas in the county that aren’t being represented now represented,” Baird said.
But the plan has met with opposition, including from elected officials who would see their jobs become appointed positions.
“I think it’s a slap in the face of democracy,” county Treasurer Dan Talarek, a Democrat, said. “It’s taking the right to vote for elected officials away from people.”
Making his job an appointed position means that whoever is treasurer won’t have to worry about pleasing the general public that put him into office, but rather the majority of the seven-member council who appoints the treasurer, Talarek said.
As it stands now, Talarek said, he answers to voters and no one else. He said he opposes term limits for any office because voters should decide who they want in elected positions.
“We have a term limit in my case every four years,” he said. “If I’m doing a bad job people can vote me out of office.”
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.