Committee holds off charter review

rpulley@lsjournal.comJuly 18, 2014 

Lee’s Summit likely will wait until 2016 before a commission is formed to review the City Charter for possible amendments.

The Lee’s Summit City Council’s Rules Committee met July 14 and discussed possibilities for amendments and changing city ordinances to improve its decision making.

Chair Bob Johnson said he’d like a charter amendment to add a line-item veto to the mayor’s powers. Councilman Derek Holland proposed higher standards for starting a recalling for an elected official.

“One of those days, if we don’t change that, we’ll have a bad consequence,” Holland said at the meeting.

The charter calls for a review every 10 years, but council can start the process earlier or have a special review for limited topics.

Johnson was in favor of starting sooner, but Holland and councilwomen Trish Carlyle and Diane Seif thought that because the 10-year period is nearly over the city should stay with that schedule.

The committee also is working on adjusting rules and ordinances for consistency and make sure they’re applied fairly.

Holland proposed a “cooling off” period between public hearings and voting on ordinances to approve rezonings or similar decisions. He said that last year, when discussing proposed controversial Wal-Mart and Price Chopper stores, the council was thinking “out loud” trying to reach an agreement and looked foolish.

Another issue the committee talked about is how to handle ideas proposed by individual members.

The council’s practice is to look for a consensus of its members to take up an issue, but a city ordinance also calls for the mayor pro tem to assign a topic to a committee based on a council member’s request. It hasn’t always happened, Johnson said.

In two recent examples, Kathy Hofmann, a former councilwoman, unsuccessfully asked several times that a committee be assigned to consider limiting the number of taverns in downtown. Councilman Dave Mosby wanted to look at fewer days for allowing fireworks. He didn’t get support and that was dropped.

The committee discussed several possibilities, such as setting a threshold of three council members expressing interest in a proposal.

Johnson said he wants to avoid rejecting new ideas, even from one member, without at least some discussion by a committee.

“I don’t want to see four or five members decide not to go forward and they might not know the background,” Johnson said.

Holland said committee chairs or the council do need some method to block bad suggestions.

“We don’t want every silly idea to get aired in a committee,” Holland said.

City Manager Steve Arbo asked that ordinances make sure there is a “tipping point” where at least four members have significant interest to avoid wasting city staff efforts. He said the city staff would bring the committee a draft ordinance based on their comments for them to discuss further.

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