Timeline for petitioners filled with ‘what-ifs’

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Just like last year, a lot has to happen before an ordinance to allow the “Bring Your Own Bottle” concept makes it to the ballot for the May 8 municipal election.

Petitioners need 351 signatures to bring BYOB to the voters, but city solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said the complex timeline is filled with twists and turns.

“It’s very complicated, there are so many variables,” she said.

Once the five petitioners feel they collected signatures from a sufficient number of registered voters – 351, or 10 percent of the 3,510 voters who went to the polls in the last election for the general assembly, in 2011, they must take them to city clerk Linda MacIntyre.

“It’s clear how many days the city clerk has to review the signatures: 20,” McCrosson said. “It’s clear that if the question is to go on the ballot, the ballot has to go to the printer by March 14, but in between there are a lot of variables.”

It could take a few days to certify the signatures or it could take several, McCrosson said. A lot depends on when the signatures are presented.

Once MacIntyre certifies the signatures and determines that there are enough to meet the threshold, she must present them to City Council at the next meeting. Council meets on Feb. 23 and March 8.

At that point, McCrosson said council must treat the initiated ordinance as if it had passed on first reading and hold a public hearing. Council could do one of three things.

“They could adopt an ordinance substantially similar to the ordinance that was proposed by the petitioners,” she said.

A majority “yes” vote would effectively make it a valid ordinance.

Council could vote it down. A majority “no” vote would send the ordinance on its way to the ballot on the May 8 municipal election if the timeline is met.

Council could also opt to let it ride to the next meeting for further consideration or public input, or ignore it altogether. If council votes not to adopt the ordinance in substantially the form requested or if council fails to take action within 20 days, the committee of petitioners may withdraw the petition with signatures of at least four of the five committee members. If committee members do not withdraw the petition, MacIntyre would then arrange to have the ordinance submitted to the voters.

“There are a lot of what-ifs,” said McCrosson, adding that she has advised Jeff Sutherland, the attorney for the petitioners, that the ballot has to go to the printers by March 14.

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