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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

HOME RULE - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

HOME RULE, established in 1912, freed Cleveland from most state-imposed restrictions of the management of its affairs by allowing it to write its own city charter. From the time the municipality was incorporated in 1836, the state had largely determined the way Cleveland conducted its business, and lacking a general grant of powers, it was unable to deal with the problems arising from its unprecedented growth during the 19th and 20th centuries. A conference of cities, led by NEWTON D. BAKER†, drew up the home rule amendment, which was approved by a state convention called to redraft Ohio's constitution. Despite opposition from rural interests, the amendment was approved by Ohio's voters in 1912.

CLEVELAND CITY COUNCIL authorized the election of a charter commission to write the charter, and two slates of candidates were presented to the voters: one assembled by Mayor Baker's nonpartisan committee and one proposed by the Progressive Constitutional League. At a special election held in Feb. 1913, the voters approved the Baker slate of commissioners. It took 4 months to produce Cleveland's first home rule charter, partly due to a disagreement within the commission on the size of the new city council. Those advocating a small council elected at large maintained that it would be more efficient, less expensive, and would eliminate the corruption associated with the political machines. Those favoring a large council elected by ward argued that it was more democratic, since councilmen were directly answerable to their constituent's concerns. The new charter, modeled after the Federal plan, maintained the council-mayor form of government, with city council reduced from 32 to 26 members elected by wards. The executive and legislative branches were separated, with the mayor appointing department heads independent of city council approval. Mayor and council were elected on a nonpartisan ballot for 2 years. Initiative, referendum, and recall were adopted to give the people more control over their government. On 1 Jan. 1914, the voters approved the charter by a 2 to 1 margin. It remained in effect until the city adopted the CITY MANAGER PLAN.

Finding aid for the Cleveland Charter Commission Records. WRHS.
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2013 04:20:35 PM

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