Proposed San Angelo Charter Changes Public Meetings and Online Survey
Seven proposed changes to the City of San Angelo’s constitution, including moving from an elected to an appointed police chief, will be the focus of a series of town hall meetings and public appearances by the Charter Review Committee, the seven-citizen body that has crafted the recommended amendments.
The first forum for gathering public input on the proposed changes will be at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, in the McNease Convention Center, 501 Rio Concho Drive. The meeting will air live at cosatx.us/watch and will be replayed multiple times daily on SATV, Suddenlink channel 17.
Other meetings will be conducted June 1 at Lincoln Middle School, 255 E. 50th St., and June 16 at Southland Baptist Church, 4300 Meadow Creek Trail. Both meetings will begin at 5:30 p.m.
Additionally, committee members are offering to speak to local civic, professional and social organizations about the proposed changes through July 1. To request a committee member to speak to a group, contact Public Information Officer Anthony Wilson at 325-481-2727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also share their thoughts on the proposed changes via an online survey at cosatx.us/CharterReviewSurvey.
“We want to hear citizens’ thoughts,” Chairman Trinidad Aguirre said. “Our minds remain open to altering these proposed amendments based upon insightful and compelling ideas from the public. We will diligently employ every means and avenue available to share these proposed changes with and to gather input from our fellow citizens.”
Charter Review Committee members will offer their recommendations to the City Council for its consideration July 21. The Council will determine which changes to place on the Nov. 3 ballot for voters’ consideration.
The proposed changes to the City charter are as follows:
- Extending City Council terms from two years to four. Amending Section 8 of the City charter would reduce the frequency of elections from yearly to every two years, saving the $25,000 to $35,000 expense of an annual election (and more if there’s a runoff), committee members said. Beginning in 2017, the mayor and the District 2, 4 and 6 Council members would be elected to a four-year term. The District 1, 3 and 5 representatives would run for a three-year term in 2016 and a four-year term in 2019.
- Limiting the number of terms that Council members can serve to two consecutive, full four-year terms. Currently, there are no term limits. Under the proposed change, former Council members could run again after a hiatus of at least four years. Limiting service to eight years would both ensure continuity and an infusion of fresh perspectives, some committee members say.
- Updating and simplifying the qualifications in Section 9 to not only run for the City Council but to serve on the body. That includes being at least 18 years of age and a resident of the city and of the district the member represents, not being a City employee or elected official, and complying with state laws regarding conflicts of interest.
- Raising the mayor’s monthly pay from $50 to $350 and Council members’ pay from $41.67 to $300 per month. Committee members note Section 10 of the charter regarding Council compensation has not been updated since 1947 and that Council members spend an estimated 15-20 hours per week on City business.
- Allowing for special elections to fill vacancies on the City Council on uniform state election days not less than 30 days after the Council orders the election. The change to section 14 would bring the charter into compliance with state election law.
- Requiring a two-thirds vote of the City Council – or five of its seven members – to remove the city manager from the post. Currently, Section 27 of the charter says the city manager holds the office “at the will of the City Council.” Committee members believe, given the importance of the position, more than a simple majority should be required. This would also allow the city manager to more freely attend to duties by adding a measure of job security, committee members said.
- Removing confusion and conflicts with state election law and allowing more timely notification of affected parties involved in the initiative and referendum process, as outlined in Section 47. The proposed changes also include a six-month minimum before changing any ordinance established through initiative and referendum, unless approved by a super-majority of the City Council (five of seven members).
- Moving from an elected to an appointed police chief. If approved, the city manager would appoint the police chief based upon stated qualifications and group interviews, as is the case with all other City department heads. The City Council would review the selection prior to it being finalized.
Committee members said the charter’s requirement in sections 60-64 that police chief candidates live in the city of San Angelo greatly limits the pool of potential candidates and the opportunity to hire the best chief possible. Further, they said the political campaigns and election every four years distracts the chief and his officers from focusing on crime reduction, short- and long-term management of the SAPD, financial administration and officer retention. Further, the political campaigns create divisions within the SAPD and the community, they added. The committee also believes the city manager and City Council, because they are attuned to the daily operations and performance of City departments, are in the best position to hold the chief accountable and would be able to make necessary changes prior to the next election cycle.
The city charter was drafted in 1915 when San Angelo was established as a home-rule city. The document provides a basic structure for our municipal government, outlining what it can and cannot do. As with the Texas and U.S. constitutions, it can be amended, but only with the approval of the City Council and then, ultimately, the voters. In the past 100 years, the city charter has been amended 12 times, most recently in 2007. Charter elections can be held no sooner than two years after the document was last changed.
The City Council in November appointed seven members to the Charter Review Committee to review the document for potential changes and updates. The committee members and the City Council member who appointed them are:
Kandi Pool (District 6 Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer).