Vote delayed on Ypsilanti charter revision that includes proposed nonpartisan elections
At its Wednesday night “public hearing,” the Ypsilanti Charter Commission approved sending a proposed charter revision to the state attorney general’s office for language approval.
Until it was discovered at the conclusion of the meeting that Charter Commission Chair Kim Porter-Hoppe had not convened a public hearing but only another commission meeting.
A public hearing, which will be posted in the city's newspaper of record and will include a short presentation on the charter revisions, will be held on March 7.
The revised charter could be in front of voters in November.
The commission has been meeting for over a year making minor changes to the charter. A proposed switch from partisan to non-partisan elections has caught some residents’ and elected official’s attention.
The commissioners didn’t discuss the election issue at Wednesday’s meeting beyond summarizing the changes.
Five residents attended, including Carl Schier, an Ypsilanti attorney and Democrat, who spoke against non-partisan elections during the meeting’s first public comment. He said he was “unalterably opposed” to the change.
“It’s a way for the party out of power to get in office, and, with all due respect to Republicans I think that if you’re running for office then you are running on a party platform,” he said.
In December, the nine-member commission voted 6-2 to propose non-partisan elections.
The commission is made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and an Independent.
Independent former Mayor Cheryl Farmer, who helped craft the current charter, and Democrat John Gawlas were the lone votes against the proposed change. Democrat William Fennel was not present. Democrats Robert Doyle and James Hawkins joined Republicans Karen Quinlan-Valvo, James Fink, Peter Fletcher and Porter-Hoppe in voting for proposing non-partisan elections.
Ypsilanti, which officials estimate is more than two-thirds Democratic, currently has partisan elections and primaries.
The motion to send the revised language to the attorney general’s office was unanimously approved. Doyle and Hawkins were absent.
Gawlas originally voted against partisan elections but said he supports the commission's collective decision.
“A majority supported the notion of changing to a non-partisan election,” he said. “Yes, it’s true my vote on that specific question was to oppose that change, but a majority makes the decision on a body like this and that has been the majority’s decision.”
City Council has expressed its unanimous opposition to the change and passed a resolution recommending that the Charter Commission hold a public hearing to discuss non-partisan elections.
During the second public comment after the commission’s unanimous vote, a resident asked if there would be a public hearing. He said he knew of several people who didn't attend because they didn't think it was a public hearing.
He was told by Porter-Hoppe that the current meeting was the public hearing, but City Clerk Frances McMullan clarified that public notice had to be posted and published in a newspaper of record for it to qualify as a public hearing.
That led Commissioner Cheryl Farmer to make a motion reconsider the vote, which was approved 6-1. A new vote will take place at the March 7 public hearing.