Council requests update on status of ADA ordinance

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published October 27, 2021

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WARREN — In April, the Warren City Council unanimously approved a second reading of amendments to the city code outlining updated accessibility standards, officially putting the “Tony Baker” Americans with Disabilities Act ordinance on the books.

But is it really on the books?

City sources insist it is.

It’s on the city’s website, at www.cityofwarren.org. Under the “Community” tab on the main page, anyone can fill out a survey about access to physical buildings, rights of way or related programs and services. You can also read the ordinance in full, or follow a link to a formal complaint form if you have a grievance.  

But Councilman Jonathan Lafferty said he could not find the ordinance in the Municode system online, where Warren’s ordinances are compiled and searchable for anyone to read or use to build, update or operate in accordance with the law.  

“That’s what we operate by. That’s our policy manual,” Lafferty said. “Anybody in the administration can publish what they want to the city’s website.”

Lafferty said Municode “is the official system of record for our ordinances.”

“If it’s not there, it’s not in the ordinance. It’s not published,” Lafferty said.

The ordinance was in effect named by the council after Baker, a Warren resident who fought for more than four years to draw attention to city buildings, public spaces and businesses left inaccessible or difficult to use for people living with physical challenges.

Baker was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis in 1985. He retired from a career in automotive prototype, paint and bodywork when he became disabled four years later.  

Assistant Warren City Attorney Mary Michaels, who addressed the amendments to the city’s code of ordinances in April when the council voted to approve them, said the published and effective date of the “Tony Baker bill,” Ordinance No. 80-794, was Aug. 11, 2021. She referenced correspondence indicating the ordinance was published in the newspaper, as required.  

“It took a long time, but we’re not done,” Michaels said Oct. 20. “It adapts, and it’s just like a springboard, to move on to improvements within the city.

Michaels added, “It will lay a foundation for us to move forward.”

Lafferty said he asked the City Council’s hired outside attorney, Jeffrey Schroder, to examine the code and determine if it is in fact on the books. At the council’s meeting on Oct. 12, Lafferty, calling attention to the calendar now six months removed from the vote on the second reading of the amendments, officially requested a status update.

“The plan clearly calls out all of the actionable items that this council mandated as part of the Tony Baker bill, as part of the ADA ordinance. I have concerns because I haven’t seen anything,” Lafferty said.

Warren City Council Secretary Mindy Moore said the council would discuss, as soon as its next meeting on Oct. 26, after the Warren Weekly went to press, a request to put a timetable in place for Warren’s city clerk to publish ordinances in the newspaper, update Municode and notify the City Council of the effective date after an ordinance is passed.

“Here’s what we’re finding: Anything that the council proposes for an ordinance change doesn’t get published for months and months, but if the administration proposes something we vote on for an ordinance, it’s a miracle and it gets published in Municode two minutes later,” Moore said.

According to the City Clerk’s office, ordinance updates are sent to Municode individually when they are certified but are then published quarterly by the service, per its agreement with the city.

The city pays for each quarterly supplement, which typically includes a batch of ordinances and amendments sent individually, but published together as part of that supplement.  

While the city’s code of ordinances is offered online through the Municode service as a convenience, a disclaimer on the site indicates “The Code of Ordinances and/or any other documents that appear on this site may not reflect the most current legislation adopted by the municipality.”

As of Oct. 22, the city’s ADA ordinance was listed on the site as an adopted ordinance not yet codified as part of “Supplement 86,” updated on Sept. 23, 2021.

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