GOSHEN — City council opted not to pass an ordinance establishing council districts Thursday, instead choosing to table the issue until Mayor Allan Kauffman hears from the state if there would be sanctions against the council if they don’t pass an ordinance by Jan. 1.
Two ordinances were before the council Thursday night; one was the original plan, passed on first reading at the last council meeting, and the second was an amended proposal from council president Tom Stump.
Stump felt the original proposal left Republicans at a disadvantage, leading him to draw up a proposal of his own. Another concern of Stump’s was making sure fourth district councilwoman Julia Gautsche’s home was not added to district five, which is represented by Everett Thomas.
Stump’s plan removed Gautsche’s block from the proposed district so that it could remain in the fourth district.
A major issue with Stump’s proposal was the population deviation between the largest and smallest districts. The original proposal had a 16.44 percent deviation, while Stump’s was 16.91 percent. When asked what the deviation was currently, Kauffman said he believed it was around 22 percent.
Resident Fred Buttell put his support behind Stump’s proposal, asking why council was debating less than .5 percent of deviation.
Gautsche said that while she appreciated Stump’s attempt to keep her in her district, she was concerned that many of her neighbors would still end up in the fifth district.
In the end, Stump rescinded his proposal anyway, on the grounds that his changes did have some partisan motivation and didn’t want to open the council to possible legal recourse.
After doing so, however, he noted that he was not prepared to vote for the original proposal.
Kauffman said that if the council did not come to a decision on the proposed council districts, he would need to contact the state to see if there would be repercussions. City attorney Larry Barkes said that he had not found any at this point, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any.
Councilman Jeremy Stutsman wanted to vote on the proposed ordinance, as he thought it unrealistic to believe another proposal could be brought before the end of the year. “Are we delaying this to be back right where we are right now?” he asked. “If there’s not another proposal after all this time of looking at it, then what are we waiting for?”
Despite Stutsman’s concern, the council ultimately decided to table the discussion and wait for Kauffman to find out what repurcussions, if any, there would be if an ordinance was not passed by the beginning of 2013.
Kauffman said he would check Friday to see if they would face any sanctions, and if not, they would wait until January to decide on the districts. If the council would in fact face some sort of repercussions and another proposal is available, the council will meet at 5 p.m. Monday to continue the debate.