Charter workshop heats up in Bronson

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

A Bronson workshop Monday evening erupted into pandemonium after the discussion turned toward the subjects of early voting and residency requirements of town council members.
"He's just runnin' his mouth is what he's doin'," was the comment from Mayor Franklin Schuler about Council Member Berlon Weeks after a debate among council members about the two issues.
Monday night was the third workshop the council has had in recent weeks to discuss how to address the town's outdated charter. Staff and officials have been tackling several sections at a time in these meetings, with little debate on how the new charter would read, until Monday night, that is.
Loud disagreements began after a discussion on the use of the term "free citizen," which was part of the wording used for a proposed amendment for early voting expected to be addressed in a special election later this year.
Town Attorney Steven Warm said he didn't understand the reason for the particular verbiage, though he admitted it may have to be written that way on the ballot.
"The answer is: I really don't know," Warm said.
Council Member Bruce Greenlee said he was bothered by the use of the word "free," though he said he didn't know why.
"It shouldn't have been a big deal to begin with, Bruce," Weeks said, explaining some of the background of the issue with early voting.
Last year, council denied having early elections several times. Each decision was a 3-2 loss for Weeks, who was the first to bring the matter up, and then-Council Member Jason Kennedy. Both said early voting would increase voter turnout in Bronson. The remaining council members disagreed.
But Weeks went public with the issue, getting enough signatures to mandate having early voting placed on a ballot.
"We voted on it three different times," Mayor Franklin Schuler said to Weeks Monday night. "And each time it didn't pass, but you ...."
"I took the democratic move, and took it to the people," Weeks said, adding that the town is now spending more money on the issue because opposing council members stalled placing it on the ballot until the town's charter could be rewritten.
Schuler said Weeks didn't support his argument with facts and figures during last year's discussion on why early voting would make a difference.
"You didn't bring no numbers," Schuler said.
Weeks disagreed, saying he brought figures on how many people travel out of county for work each day, one of the reasons he said early voting would have made a difference in voter turnout.
"You just runnin' yo mouth," Schuler said.
And that's when Weeks got up to leave, saying "I'm not taking a blasting from you for nothin'."
Still, lingering, he added, "Why do you have a council member sitting on the board who doesn't even live here?"
"I live in Bronson," Vice Mayor Beatrice Roberts said.
"All the time?" Weeks asked, now standing behind the visitor's podium.
Roberts said she lives in Bronson about 85 percent of the time.
"So what constitutes residency?" Weeks asked.
Again, Roberts said she lives in Bronson 85 percent of the time and added that she owns property in town and pays bills there.
"Then that needs to be in the charter," Weeks said, referring to earlier discussions alluding to a requirement for council members to live within town limits. Weeks said the charter needs to be more specific about the nature of residency.
"What you're talking about is irrelevant and immature," Council Member Aaron Edmondson said. And then Weeks returned to his seat, suggesting that the council move forward, which Edmondson took as Weeks "trying to take charge."
Weeks, who said earlier in the meeting he would not be running for office again in Bronson, told the council he was just "trying to do things legally."