The petition drive to force a referendum on whether to create a chief operating officer at City Hall is only a couple of hundred signatures short of what’s needed, one of the chief organizers said Thursday.
After last weekend’s “petition blitz,” former Republican mayoral contender Ken Johnson said the drive has gathered more than 3,000 signatures. It needs a little less than 3,200 by the July 25 deadline.
“The naysayers said they’ll believe 3,000 when they see it. Well, they’re seeing it,” Johnson said in a note to supporters.
If those seeking a referendum on the chief operating officer position are successful in gathering enough valid signatures, voters will have the final say on the issue at the polls on November 4.
The City Council last month rejected the Charter Revision Commission’s recommendation to create the new post to provide greater administrative oversight of city government. A majority of councilors said it was too costly and unnecessary.
But the two councilors who supported the idea – Democrat Craig Minor and Republican Ken Cockayne – announced a plan for a bipartisan push to force a referendum on it. The city’s GOP has been heavily involved in gathering the signatures needed.
Minor said Thursday he has “no idea” how many signatures have been collected so far.
“I’m one of the worker bees on this project,” Minor said.
City Clerk Therese Pac said her office hasn’t received any petitions yet. But, she said, the city attorney has ruled that the petitions have to be submitted all at once rather than piecemeal in order to meet the legal requirements for pushing charter changes that the council has turned down.
Johnson, who fell short in last year’s mayoral contest, said that organizers are aiming “to give ourselves plenty of breathing room” by collecting 20 percent more signatures than they must.
Leaving a margin of error, he said, allows room for some of the signatures to be disqualified because the people who signed are not registered voters in the city.
The petition drive is going on this weekend at the two Stop & Shop grocery stores in town from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.
Johnson said those promoting the drive are hoping for a strong showing in the final days of the effort.
“With your help, we will blow the lid off this thing this weekend and send a strong message to City Hall,” Johnson told supporters.
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