Some amendments affect council operation
Editor's note: This is the first in a series on proposed city charter amendments that will be on the ballot during the May 12 election. As much as possible, they have been grouped by subject. The amendments here are not necessarily in the form they will appear on the ballot, but in some cases have been expanded to give readers a better idea of the context.
Voters will be asked their opinions on May 12 on 27 amendments to the city charter, the basic governing document for Port Aransas. The amendments have all been recommended by the charter review commission, a five-person group appointed by the city council, and have been approved by the council as well.
The commission originally recommended 28 amendments; the council decided not to include a question of whether to require only two public readings of an ordinance instead of the current three required readings. Council members said they didn't believe voters would approve reducing the number of readings needed to create an ordinance, and most members didn't want the number of readings cut to two anyway.
As they will appear on the ballot, the amendments say what will be changed. In this series, the South Jetty will try to show readers how those changes will fit in the applicable section of the charter.
1. Council compensation. The charter now only allows the council to approve the expenses of council members while performing official duties. This amendment would also allow the city manger to approve expense vouchers.
2. Passage of ordinances. The charter now requires that copies of an ordinance being read be made available to "citizens at the meeting." The amendment requires copies to be available any time at city hall.
3. Emergency ordinances. Currently, five votes are needed to pass an emergency ordinance. The amendment would change that to four votes - in other words, the same number of votes would be needed for an emergency ordinance as for any other ordinance.
4. Printing of ordinances and reso- lutions. The charter now calls for copies of each adopted ordinance to be made available in the library. The amendment removes that requirement, since copies are now available in city hall anyway; and adds that copies must be posted on the city's Web site.
5. Investigations by the city council. Under the current charter, the council can "inquire into the official conduct of any department, agency, office, officer or employee of the city." It can administer oaths, subpoena witnesses and force books, papers and other evidence to be produced. It can also fine anyone who refuses to obey the subpoena. The charter review commission felt this was properly the job of courts, not of the council, and council members agreed. While the amendment would still allow the council to conduct investigations, it removes the right to subpoena or administer oaths.