If Passed, Cincinnati's Issue 11 Could Rein in Mayoral Power

Issue 11 would eliminate the mayor’s “pocket veto.”

If Issue 11 passes, some power could shift in Cincinnati City Hall. - Photo: Nick Swartsell
Photo: Nick Swartsell
If Issue 11 passes, some power could shift in Cincinnati City Hall.

Editor's note: This story is featured in the Nov. 2 print edition of CityBeat.

Cincinnati voters will decide on Nov. 8 how much power they want the mayor of the city to wield.

Issue 11 would eliminate the mayor’s “pocket veto,” the loophole in a charter amendment that allows the mayor of Cincinnati to postpone legislation indefinitely without discussion from Cincinnati City Council.

If passed, the mayor would have to refer legislation to the proper committee within four scheduled meetings of it being filed — about four weeks. The head of that committee would then be required to place the legislation on the agenda for any of the subsequent four meetings, which could take up to eight weeks. The legislation then would leave committee and go to the full council, again within the span of four scheduled meetings.

Previously, the mayor was permitted to simply fail to pass the legislation to committee, stopping the whole process.

Cincinnati has seen the loophole used in the past. Mayor Mark Mallory used the pocket veto in 2006 to block a vote on making his office budget bear the expense for the mayor’s bodyguard.

In theory, current mayor Aftab Pureval would lose some power if Issue 11 is passed. But it was Pureval, himself, who proposed the change in September, along with council members Mark Jeffreys and Jeff Cramerding.

“Eliminating the pocket veto is a meaningful action to ensure that all legislation affecting our residents is considered in a clear, transparent and fair manner,” Pureval tells CityBeat. “With this amendment, we are creating an explicit process that myself and all our city leaders — from now into the future — would be held accountable to. I’m proud that we are demonstrating our active commitment to a government that works for the people, rather than holding onto our own power.”

Ballot language (available on the Hamilton County Board of Elections website):
Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to provide that the Mayor is required to assign a legislative matter to the appropriate committee by the fourth regularly scheduled meeting of council following the date the legislative matter was submitted to the clerk of council; that if the Mayor does not assign a legislative matter within that time, the Clerk of Council shall assign it to the appropriate committee; that each legislative matter assigned to a committee shall be placed by the committee chair on the agenda no later than the fourth regularly scheduled committee meeting after referral unless the legislative sponsor of the ordinance grants an extension of time to the clerk of council in writing; that upon approval of a legislative matter by a committee, the Mayor shall be required to place such legislation on the Council agenda for passage by no later than the fourth regular meeting following such committee approval; and that motions and non-legislative resolutions may be assigned by the Mayor to the appropriate committee or may be immediately considered by council if (1) the Mayor places the motion or non-legislative resolution on the Council calendar for immediate consideration or (2) upon the vote of two-thirds of the members of Council in favor of immediate consideration of the motion or non-legislative resolution, by amending Article III, Section 2 of the Cincinnati Charter?

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