Make Changes Only If Needed

Much has changed in Steubenville since the city charter last was amended in 1992. With City Council’s approval of a commission to handle the task, it can begin in earnest.

Members of the charter review panel should keep two pieces of advice in mind: First, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. And second, as physicians are advised, do no harm.

Council members began discussing the issue in February. Then, Council-man Willie Paul noted much has changed since the original charter was adopted in 1984 and it was reviewed in 1987 and 1992. “Things are completely different now,” Paul said. Issues such as whether Steubenville needs a city manager and how many people should serve on City Council should be considered, he added.

Paul is right, as his fellow council members agreed in asking Mayor Domenick Mucci to recommend nine names of people to serve on a charter review commission.

Members of the panel are expected to accept suggestions for updating the charter. They also may hold public hearings on the matter.

It is probable commission members will consider various aspects of the charter, including whether other municipalities in similar circumstances do things differently. It will not be difficult to find other ideas about city government; there are as many philosophies of how to govern a community as there are of how to structure a country.

Again, however, change is not always good. Some aspects of the charter have proven their value. They should be left in place.

Suggested changes aimed at shifting power – that is, granting more or less authority to some officials, including members of semi-independent citizens’ panels – should be viewed with suspicion by the charter commission. Again, if a particular operation of city government is functioning well now, why change it?

It will require months of work for the commission to complete its investigation and recommend changes, if members feel any are needed, to the charter. During that period, Steubenville residents and business owners will have multiple opportunities to provide input. Recognizing this is their opportunity to influence the basic blueprint of how city government functions, they should do so.