PORTAGE | Former City Councilperson Ed Gottschling was the speaker at the March 27 Portage Exchange Club Meeting. Gottschling, a 19-year member of the Exchange Club, served four consecutive terms (16 years) on the Portage City Council. He discussed the workings of a municipal government, Portage’s in particular.
“City government is the government people depend on, the ones people call on when there is a problem. If you have a concern, call your councilperson first, then the mayor or the department heads. Our departments are doing a good job. The police, fire and sanitation departments are some of the best in this area,” Gottschling said.
“We enjoy Home Rule, which means we can pass ordinances or laws to regulate what happens in our city, and we can appropriate money. The only reservations are state and federal statues that guide us and/or restrict what we can do. Finances are dictated by the state, which also audits our budget.
He explained the three classes of cities, based on population. A first class city has 500,000 residents or more; second class, 35,000 – 500,000; third class, under 35,000. As the class of the city rises, so does the cost to each citizen.
“Portage is still classified as a third class city. That means we have seven members on the council and a clerk/treasurer position. Second class cities must have nine council members and separate clerk and treasurer positions. That means three more salaries for the citizens to pay.
“The mayor deals with the day to day issues of the city. He or she has to be well informed about everything within the city. He or she gets regular reports from the directors of the various departments.
“The clerk/treasurer is responsible for all the financial dealings of the city. The mayor sets the budget, which is then reviewed by the council. The council can lower the budget but not raise it.
“Portage is comprised of five districts, each with four to seven precincts based on population. We try to keep them fairly distributed. Each district has a councilperson elected by the people in that district. There are two At-Large positions, and they are voted on by everyone in the city. A council term of office is four years with no term limit on the number of times a person can serve. The salary for this part-time position is presently $12,000.”
Although he is not presently an elected city official, Gottschling continues to attend council meetings, which are open to the public.
“I think more people should go to the meetings. I’m interested in what’s happening and how things are done,” he said. “When I was on the council, I enjoyed what I was doing. You always have to do what’s right. And you have to understand that no matter what decision you make, 50% of the people will think you’re right and 50% will think you’re wrong. You just have to ask yourself: ‘What’s best for the city and the citizens?’”