The Weatherford Democrat had a rather ‘naive’ summary of the proposed changes to the Weatherford City Charter. The following is a more thorough appraisal and critique of the propositions along with my personal voting recommendations and rationale.
According to the Weatherford Democrat:
Proposition No. 1
[a] Would lengthen terms for city council members from two years to three years. Under the current two-year length, a vacancy is filled at the next general election or by council appointment if there is less than six months remaining for the term. A three-year length would change the process. State law requires a special election be held as soon as practicable to fill the remainder of the term. With two-year terms, the candidate with the most votes wins. In a three-year term setting, a candidate needs 50 percent plus one vote to win. This means if there are more than two candidates and no one candidate receives a majority, the top two vote getters advance to a run-off election.
[b] Additional changes included in Proposition No. 1 bring the candidate qualification language into compliance with state law. Qualifications outlined in Proposition No. 1 are: the candidate must be at least 21, a citizen of the United States, qualified to vote in the city, reside inside the city limits for at least 12 months preceding the election, not file for more than one office per election and an employee of the city cannot continue to work for the city after becoming a candidate for an elective office.
[c] The proposition also clarifies the duties and powers of the city council to prevent the council from exercising the duties of the city manager, holding other public office or voting on matters where a conflict of interest exists. These duties include enacting municipal legislation, the power to appoint and remove appointed persons, setting the compensation of all appointed city officers, establishing an operating policy, establishing the boundaries of the city and establishing the salary structures for each job classification.
I VOTE A BIG NO!!! This should have been three separate proposals, and I would have voted yes for [c]. The 50% provision is a job security ‘Easter egg’ for an incumbent. It allows the other council members to handpick a replacement that then has the advantage of being an incumbent in the next election. Run-off elections will also probably cost more money than the nickel’s worth of difference between almost any two candidates. I view some of the additional provisions as a candy coating for a potentially bitter pill, but there is another big problem with this proposition. The proposition DELETES the following paragraph in its entirety (emphasis mine):
The Mayor and each Councilman Member shall be a resident citizen of the City of Weatherford, and have the qualifications of electors therein. The Mayor, Councilmen Members and other officers and employees shall not be indebted to the city, shall not hold any public office of emolument, and shall not be interested in the profits or emoluments of any contract, job work or service for the municipality, or interested in the sale to the city of any supplies, equipment, material or articles purchased; nor shall any of them be the owner of stock in any public utility providing utility service within the city limits or subject to rate regulation by the City Council. Any officer or employee of the city who shall cease to possess any of the qualifications herein required shall forfeit his office or position, and any contract in which any officer or employee shall or may become interested may be declared void by the Council. No officer or employee of the city shall accept any frank, free ticket, passes or service or anything of value directly or indirectly from any person, firm or corporation, upon terms more favorable than are granted to the public, and any violation, of this section shall be a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof, such office or employment shall be forfeited.
I think I'd like to keep the paragraph just as it is, thank you very much.Some of the provisions removed by the previous paragraph are replaced by a weaker provision (again, emphasis mine):
(d) Elected officials of the City having substantial interest in any proposed or existing contract, purchase, work, sale or service to, for or by the City shall not vote or render a decision or use that position, authority, or influence, in any manner that would result in personal betterment, financially or otherwise, to any degree. Elected officials shall publicly disclose any such interest upon assumption of office or prior to consideration of any such matters.So, let me get this straight. It is OK to have a “little interest” with no definition of what is or is not ‘substantial’, and as long as you recuse yourself and let your buddies… er… ‘fellow members’ vote in your best interest everything will be just fine? I am certain there will be no ‘Quid Propos’ in our future, and disclosures will be made with this paragraph in force. (That last sentence was sarcasm.)
What makes anyone think lowering the standards for our political office holders at any time--much less now--is a good idea?
Proposition No. 2
Again according to the Weatherford Democrat, Proposition 2:
establishes the duties, responsibilities and position of the city manager. The current charter does not have these duties clearly defined. Changes under this proposition would provide language in the charter to implement the city’s council-manager form of government. This proposition would also remove the requirement that the city attorney reside within the Weatherford city limits,but would still require the attorney to have an office inside the city.I VOTE YES! OK by me. I’m for any provision that doesn’t necessarily increase the number of attorneys living in Weatherford. This should make it easier to run them out of town if necessary.
Assistant City Manager Robert Hanna said the current requirement is too restrictive. “When the Zellers decide to retire and stop representing the city, we’re going to have to find other legal council,” he said. “We have some really qualified law firms in town, but they may not live in the city limits and would be precluded from representing the city. This is to provide the council the maximum flexibility to have the best and most qualified representation.” The council could mandate that the attorney live inside the city if they choose, he added.
Proposition No. 3The Democrat tells us that: Proposition No. 3..
... would take away the requirement to read and vote on an ordinance twice before it become effective. Hanna said the requirement to read and vote on all ordinances twice is an old practice once common in city government. “There may be some controversial ordinances where it is important to do that still and they have the right to [have a second read],” he said. “But where it doesn’t make sense other than adding to bureaucracy, we’re trying to get rid of that. Cities have gotten away from that because the speed of business has increased and government is slow enough as it is.”I VOTE NO!!! Old Government is Slow Government is Good Government. I enjoy the fact that it is hard to pull a ‘fast one’ if you have to pull it off twice! Conversely, really good ideas ought to breeze through twice without any problem. Now I'm wondering who in city government told the Deputy City Manager to put the 'smiley face' on this pig?
Proposition No. 4The Weatherford Democrat piece says....
Proposition No. 4 cleans up language in the budget and finance area of the charter. Most of this section of the charter does not currently comply with state requirements or is superseded by state regulations. Adoption of this proposition would finalize the city’s current financial practices.I vote YES (hesitantly). This one seems pretty harmless on the read-through. Which begs the questions over Proposition 1 even more: Why wasn’t the candy coating used in Proposition 1 included with this proposition? I'm hesitant on the YES because how do I know someone isn't successfully trying to pull one over after seeing Prop 1 and 3?
Proposition No. 5On this one the WD tells us:
Proposition No. 5 includes revisions to make the charter language gender neutral, simplify and clarify language, and add paragraph headings and subsection numerical designations without changing the meaning. Revisions would be made throughout the entire charter.I Vote NO!! Somebody needs to keep their stinking ‘Something-Studies Pseudo-Scientific” fingers of Political Correctness off my City Charter For crying’ out loud! Making changes just so some guy with ‘Low T’ and a ponytail can feel good about himself is pure silliness. It is even more silly if the guy is a ‘she’. Spare the rest of us your 'esteem' issues if you please.
A full description of the amendments and the charter are available on the city’s website at www.weatherfordtx.gov/charter2010.
Or-- if you are in a hurry-- you can jump to the PDF file that is a red lined markup showing actual deletions and additions proposed:
Read. Heed. Make Your Vote Count.
BTW: I (sadly) thoroughly expect all these propositions to pass because enough people won't pay enough attention.