Blogs » Man Bites Dog » Pro/Con breakdown of city charter amendments

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Election season is in full swing. For instant updates on what's happening in the city and county of Victoria, follow me on Twitter @melcrowe.

The city ballot includes four city council seats and a list of 17 amendments to the city charter. Early voting is open through May 8, election day is May 12.

The local League of Women Voters sent out this morning a list of pros and cons relating to the charter propositions. The league is a non-partisan group that neither supports nor rejects either the proposed amendments to the city charter or the Victoria College Bond proposition. Here is that list:

  1. The amendment of City Charter Article II, Section 7 to provide for the City Secretary to be appointed by the City Manager PRO: Streamlines hiring and personnel management process. Keeps day-to-day operations with staff CON: None as long as City Manager adheres to fair hiring practices and the job duties listed in current article are carried on

  2. The amendment of City Charter Article II, Sections 10 & 11 to permit broader notification of ordinances to the public PRO: Broadens these notifications beyond just newspapers to include online media and other means, which will increase awareness to audiences who choose to obtain their information online CON: None as long as efforts are made to provide such notification to those who do not take newspaper or have access to online media

  3. The amendment of City Charter Article III, Section 1 to authorize the Assistant City Manager to serve during the absence or disability of City Manager PRO: This is a common practice among cities and has been the usual practice for City of Victoria in succession planning. Streamlines system rather than having to bring matter before City Council which regularly meets every 2 weeks CON: None as long as City Manager is prepared to step in

  4. The amendment of the City Charter, Article III, Section 5 to replace the phrase “public moneys” with the phrase “City moneys” PRO: Addresses a conflict of interest issue, because city council members may not be paid out of money they control. As is, the article would prevent employees of VISD, Victoria College, or Univ. of Houston – Victoria from seeking a city council office or appointed to a city office since they are paid using “public funds” (tax dollars) and they may be well-qualified to serve. CON: None as long as provisions remain in place and are practiced regarding one year hire-in provisions and ability to represent City on other regional governing boards or intergovernmental entities exist

  5. The amendment of the City Charter , Article IV to eliminate taxation provisions that have been superseded by state law as unnecessary and redundant PRO: Eliminates nine (9) sections from the article regarding the city’s power to levy and collect taxes which would bring charter in line with current state law CON: None as long as article continues to allow Council to keep tax cap and decrease official tax rate for the current year at any given time

  6. The amendment of the City Charter, Article V, Section 8 to eliminate landholding requirements PRO: Allows all registered voters to have a say in the vote for/against general obligation bonds CON: Landowners are typically the ones who end up paying for the bonds through property taxes, so there is some risk they would be saddled with paying for property acquisitions or public infrastructure improvements not in their best interest

  7. The amendment for the City Charter Article VII, Sections 2 & 6 to require general and special elections to be held on uniform election dates in accordance with state law. PRO: Holding the general election of City Council members (which includes the mayor) on the same day as Uniform Election Dates meets state law and helps control costs to hold an election and makes it more convenient for voters as they have to make fewer trips to the polls. The City will maintain current election date. There are some feelings that holding elections with the Fall general election creates more focus on the races – however, general elections do not occur annually as do those in the Spring. CON: None provided article still allows for reasonable timing and means to hold special elections as is in current article

  8. The amendment of the City Charter Article VIII, Section 2 to lengthen the time period in which a petition for referendum may be filed. PRO: Gives a more days to file a petition by changing from prior to 30 days of effective date of an ordinance subject to referendum (vote) to within 30 days of effective date. CON: Depending on the complexity of the ordinance 30 days may not be enough time to study and petition. Provisions for ordinances to be immediately enacted to preserve public health, peace, and safety need to stay in effect, as in existing and proposed amendment.

  9. The amendment of the City Charter Article VIII, Section IV to clarify that each petition paper is required to include an affidavit of the person circulating the paper. PRO: Makes it easier for qualified voters to submit petitions since one affidavit per paper will be required, rather than requiring the petition paper contain a single affidavit from originator. This allows others to help circulate petition, yet preserves authenticity. Validation that those who sign are registered voters will and needs to remain duty of City Secretary. CON: None provided due diligence is still conducted to validate affidavit, and that attesting signer still circulate petition personally and witness signature of others to be genuine.

  10. The amendment for the City Charter Article IX, to provide that the Planning Commission shall be an advisory body to the City Council, and shall perform duties as assigned. PRO: A blanket cause allows this appointed group of citizens more freedom in strategic planning as well as handling more day-to-day reviews on infrastructure improvements. CON: Without specific duties delineated there is some risk the Planning Commission may decide on matters not within their authority

  11. The amendment of the City Charter Article X to eliminate provisions related to the paving of streets as unnecessary and redundant of state law. PRO: These are already in effect under state law. CON: None

  12. The amendment of the City Charter Article XI, section 2 to remove the residency requirement for the municipal court judge PRO: Allows more flexibility in City Council finding a qualified, practicing attorney to fulfill this role by removing three year residency requirement CON:Appointees who have moved recently from outside Victoria may be lacking some in city specific knowledge that requires additional research

  13. The amendment of the City Charter Article XI, Section 3 to provide for the Clerk of the Municipal Court to be appointed by the City Manager PRO: Streamlines personnel management process. Keeps day-to-day operations with staff CON: None provided the job duties listed in current article are carried on

  14. The amendment of the City Charter Article XII, Section 9 to permit certain campaign activities while not in city-owned building or in City Council meetings. PRO: Preserves the right of city officers and employees to campaign for and contribute to campaigns, and other First Amendment rights - while prohibiting city elected officers from campaigning when in city-owned buildings or at City Council meetings CON: None as long as it is monitored and enforced

  15. The amendment of the City Charter Article XII, Section 10 to define “officer” as used in the Charter to mean elective officers. PRO: Follows state law by defining officer throughout the charter as only elective officers – no longer includes appointed officers, law officers, or department heads CON: None since it follows state law

  16. The amendment of the City Charter to provide consistency in describing employees of the City. PRO: Clarifies and adds consistency in describing city employees by removing appointive officer and other similar phrases CON: None since it follows model language of many city charters

  17. The amendment of City Charter Article II, Section 2 to reduce the minimum age for qualification as a City Council members PRO: Reducing the age from 21 years to 18 years increases the pool of eligible candidates who have an interest in serving in public office. Younger adults may have more recent knowledge from social studies classes on how governments operate. CON: The younger a person is, the more possible that immaturity / lack of life experiences may reduce ability their to make sound decisions related to city matters. College students may transfer before their term is up, disrupting council continuity.