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The Gamma Phi Delta sorority house on Elm St. is shown on Sept. 20.

Oneonta’s mayor has proposed a review of the city’s charter.

Mayor Mark Drnek started the Sept. 20 meeting of the city’s Common Council with remarks about giving those who live in Oneonta a chance to have their voices heard and impact the city.

“There are a lot of folks that haven’t had that opportunity to impact the city. Their lives, and their jobs, or even their circle of friends are sometimes disconnected from the day-to-day of city government,” Drnek said.

“They would love the opportunity to add their voices, their opinion and their expertise to the implementation and success of shared strategies to set Oneonta on the road to a better future and we need their help,” he continued.

Drnek also said his plans and goals for the city include attracting a “younger demographic, singles, couples and families” and providing a “safe, vibrant, interesting, entertaining and welcoming community.”

Additionally, Drnek said that he believes that the Oneonta City Charter “needs review and maybe a little TLC.”

In accordance with reviewing the charter, Drnek said that he is appointing a committee to be chaired by Council Member Scott Harrington and including council members Kaytee Lipari Shue, Len Carson and John Rafter, to review the language of the charter.

“I ask that you determine, on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, whether modifications are warranted and, if they are, I ask that you present your recommendations to the Legislative Committee for their consideration,” Drnek said.

Transparency issues with the state of ad hoc and standing committees were also discussed at the meeting.

Council Member Mark Davies said a problem with ad hoc and smaller committees is, “We don’t know what’s going on, The appropriate thing is to bring up this information during Common Council as well as providing clear documentation of what’s happening.”

Davies then said the Council’s plan to be more inclusive and bring more voices to the table was “very successful” over the last few years and brought “new people and voices to the council, boards and commissions.”

“We have to ask ourselves, are they documenting what they’re doing and the public deserves knowing when and where these committees are meeting,” Council Member David Rissberger said.

“By posting meeting information publicly, its an invitation, a signal to invite people,” Davies said. “We want to make sure the information is transparent to support the work that’s also being done. It feels pretty bad when I am a Council member that’s not in the loop of what’s happening.”

Drnek ended the discussion and said, “We want to be transparent and engaging of people’s schedule. We want this to work, no thoughts of backroom deals, nothing in the shadows.”

The Council also found problems within the city code in regard to fraternity and sorority off-campus housing and discussed revision of the code.

“The proposed revision to section 300-34 ‘Fraternity, sorority and membership association houses’ is intended to update and clarify the language to ensure the permitting process satisfies the legislative intent,” city Administrator Greg Mattice said in an email to The Daily Star.

Code Enforcement Officer Stephen Yerly said, “We want to allow the council to be representative of communities that are saturated with fraternity and sorority housing as all members represent a different ward.”

Yerly also said revisions made to the code will allow the council to have contact info for fraternity and sorority members who live in the houses if violations to the code were to occur.

“Revising the code and allowing fraternity and sorority houses to function under an operating order would create a connection between Greek life and the council,” Yerly said.

Despite the code pertaining to documented and recognized organizations, Yerly said that the revisions do not impact unrecognized or unauthorized fraternity and sorority houses.

Decisions made in regard to committees and fraternity and sorority housing will be discussed more on Oct. 4 at the next Common Council meeting.

Alexis Ochi, staff writer, can be reached at aochi@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213.

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