Eyes on Lorain charter effort, Amherst could be last charter city standing

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JASON HAWK
EDITOR

AMHERST — An effort to change the inner workings of the city of Lorain is likely to appear on the November ballot.

If it does — and if voters decide to change key ways the Lorain government runs — then Amherst would become the last remaining statutory city in the county.

Tia Hilton of Amherst Township and attorney Gerald Phillips of Avon Lake delivered petitions to Lorain City Council Clerk Nancy Greer last week. They want voters to demand a charter for the city, provided the Board of Elections certifies at least 860 of the 1,500 signatures they collected.

There are two basic ways cities work in Ohio: They can either follow the standard rules set forth by state law and be “statutory,” or they can create their own charters that lay out local rules.

Those local rules can completely reshape what local government looks like — larger city councils, strong mayors or weak mayors or no mayors.

Lorain and Amherst are the only two local cities that still use the state’s template.

Amherst’s most influential politicians aren’t in a hurry to change anytime soon. “There’s good points and bad points to a charter,” said Mayor Mark Costilow. “There’s a lot of work involved. We operate fine statutorily, but there are things that could definitely be improved.”

The last time Amherst examined the possibility of a charter was in the early 2000s. At the time, the two Republicans on City Council — Nick Brusky and Jennifer Wasilk — were alone in supporting one. Then-Law Director Ken Stumphauzer, a Democrat, was also a proponent, ]but Wasilk said that after hearing his advice Council left the charter idea behind.

“Once you establish a system, people don’t like to change,” said Wasilk, who has served in city government for 20 years and still wants to see Amherst go the charter route. “Elected officials are just as guilty as anyone on that. We can be just as stubborn as anybody.”

For the full story, read the Sept. 10, 2020, edition of the Lorain County Community Guide.