Home Rule commission in agreement to expand council

Michael Silvestri, one of Home Rule's consultants, takes a tally vote as commission members specify their preference for the future structure of city council.

The commission tasked with studying New Castle's government operations in preliminary talks Wednesday agreed it was interested in expanding city council by two members.  

In a large step toward the finalization of the draft charter, a majority of the seven-person commission were in favor of adding two additional members to council, but keeping the positions at-large and not elected to represent a specific ward or part of the city. Commission members Marco Bulisco, Eric Ritter and Gary Bucci all preferred to keep the council at five members, but said they wouldn't mind if it was expanded to seven.

The commission is nearly one year in to an 18-month process of studying the city's government and drafting a local Constitution. Decisions about the city's potential structure of government will be made in the coming weeks as the commission's two consultants draft the charter. The drafted charter is tentatively scheduled to be completed in December. Public hearings to gauge public opinion will be scheduled before the final charter goes to a ballot referendum vote in May 2021.

A majority of the commission members also agreed not to place term limits on elected positions. The voters, Bucci said, decide the term limits by way of voting.

Chairwoman Sue Linville said she'd want terms limits to get more people involved in city government, but colleague Shannon Crisci-Brock explained term limits wouldn't necessarily increase participation.

The commission, as well as their consultants, agreed the existence of a person with a mayor title was needed. Although, discussions surrounding which position — mayor or city manager — would handle the day-to-day operations were halted when the commission members had varying opinions.

Seemingly one aspect a majority could agree on was the mayor being a voting member of city council. Details such as full-time, part-time and overall responsibilities of the position were unclear. Whether the day-to-day duties would be assigned to a manager were also unclear.

A mayor would be elected either by the electorate or the other sitting council members, if the mayor was a part of council. A manager would be hired for their experience in municipal management and report to either the mayor or the council.

The board will reconvene in two weeks to explore what options it favors.



Maria Basileo covers the City of New Castle's government, Act 47 and Union and Shenango school boards. Email her at mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com.

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