Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 7, 2014

City officials begin today on effort to get city charter up to date

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls City Council will begin its mission to create a single codified city charter today.

The council will meet every other Monday, opposite regular council meetings, combining the several versions of the charter now used by department heads, as well as recommendations from previous panels convened to create a single charter, to create and institute the new document.

Council Chairman Charles Walker, who has led the charge on charter reform, said the upcoming effort is long overdue.

“We know we’ve got to do this,” he said. “So, hopefully my colleagues realize that all these documents from over the years have to be gathered in one document and they need to be approved.”

The charter is the legal document that sets policies and guidelines for city governance and defines the roles of department heads and administrators.

There are currently two versions used in city hall.

Former Mayor Irene Elia formed a commission to tackle charter reform in 2001, but scuttled the commission’s efforts to put a finalized document in place for political reasons. The commission continued to meet and compile recommendations for the charter despite Elia’s efforts to kill its efforts.

The council will be using the proposed charter compiled by that commission as a guiding document in the formation of the new charter.

Walker has said the council is not in favor of forming a new commission, as the last group’s work used together with the other charters will give the council enough to work with without risking more political motivations that could accompany another commission.

While all city council members have said they are in favor of charter reform political discord has entered the conversation before the first meeting.

The council hired Robert Restaino, a former city judge and state assembly candidate and current school board member, on retainer to act as legal counsel during the charter reform process at a rate of $1,500 a month.

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