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2020 is looking to be a pivotal year in politics. But this year's elections are about much more than the race for the White House. And the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be a complicating factor. WKSU, our colleagues at public radio stations across Ohio and the region and at NPR will bring you coverage of all the races from the national to the local level.

What Voter-Approved Charter Changes Mean to Akron Residents

police body cam
Skyward Kick Productions
One of the charter amendments shifts the authority to release police body cam footage from the chief of police to City Council. Akron City Council President Margo Sommerville says the intent is to release all body cam footage to the public, unless prohibited by law.

Among the choices Akron voters had to make when they voted in this year’s elections were a half-dozen changes to the city’s charter. They overwhelmingly approved each of the amendments, but what impact will they have on the city’s residents?

We asked Akron City Council President Margo Sommerville about what comes next.

She said the most significant of these charter amendments, Issue 2, has to do with the footage that comes from police body cams, specifically when deadly force is used.

Issue 2: Transparency of Police Use of Force Recordings

It changes the charter so it will be up to City Council to decide if footage is released to the public, not the chief of police.

“What we're doing is not picking and choosing which footage is shown, but releasing all body cam footage,” Sommerville said.

The only exceptions are when footage would reveal someone’s personal information, like a Social Security number, she said.

“If there are laws preventing us from releasing that footage? Of course, that's just something that we cannot do. But wanting the community, the public to see body cam footage as soon as possible,” she said.

Sommerville said voters overwhelmingly cast ballots for transparency.

“I think that voters understand that in these times when you see everything that's happening across the country, that a need for transparency is just really, really important," she said. "And I think this is just one step in the right direction as we really try to be intentional about improving the relationship between police.”

Sommerville said City Council will create legislation laying the groundwork for how body cam footage will be released.

Issue 3: Human Resources Modernization

Sommerville said this issue expands the city’s charter to include more applicants for certain city jobs. It’s been championed by Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan.

It expands the pool of applicants from three to 10 for those taking a civil service exam.

That will lead to a more diverse pool of applicants, Sommerville said.

“Everyone's not maybe a great test taker, but they can perform well in the job,” she said.

Issue 3 allows the city “to make sure that our hiring practices line up with other cities in the state of Ohio. Again, that allows us to be more competitive, that allows us to attract the best talent and a more diverse talent,” she said.

Issue 4: Purchasing Reform

Issue 5: Veterans and Residency Preference Points

Issue 6: Council and Administrative Updates

Issue 7: Deadline for Initatitives/Referendums/Charter Amendments

Mark Arehart joined the award-winning WKSU news team as its arts/culture reporter in 2017. Before coming to Northeast Ohio, Arehart hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He previously worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.