Elections, library board are focus of proposed charter amendments
Editor's note: This is the third in a series of four articles explaining the propositions that will be on the Port Aransas city charter amendment election on May 12. While the ballot will contain the language of the amendment, the series seeks to put the proposals in the context of the entire section of the charter to which they apply.
Proposed amendments that will appear on the ballot have been recommended by the charter review commission and approved by the city council. Originally, the commission recommended 28 amendments; the council dropped one that would have required only two public readings to make an ordinance instead of the current three readings.
Previous parts of the series have dealt with 11 amendments affecting the city council and city administration. Part three of the series deals with city elections, citizen petitions, municipal finance, tax administration, the library board and the planning and zoning commission.
CITY ELECTIONS 12. City election schedule. The charter now provides that city elections will be held on the first Saturday in May; however, the Legislature has changed the standard election dates so elections are now held the second Saturday in May. This amendment changes the charter to conform with state law.
13. Special elections. The city council can set dates for special elections. This proposed change adds the phrase "in accordance with state law" to ensure that election dates and procedures conform to the law.
14. Filing for office. The charter says no incumbent city councilman may file for the office of mayor unless he does so for a regular April election during the last year of his term, or unless he resigns his present council seat. This amendment changes "April" to "May" to conform with state law.
15. Initiative, referendum and recall petitions. Under the current city charter, petitions for initiative, referendum or recall must contain the signatures of qualified voters equal to at least 20 percent of the "votes cast in the last general municipal election." The proposal would raise the 20 percent to 30 percent of the "persons who voted" instead of "votes cast" (because voters don't always vote on every item on the ballot, the votes cast could be different from the number of voters). The charter also gives petitioners 30 days to present the petitions to the city secretary; the change would raise that to 60 days.
16. Emergency appropriations. The council has the authority to make emergency appropriations to meet unforeseen needs affecting public health or well-being. The charter now requires five votes of the seven-member council to pass an emergency appropriation. The proposed change would eliminate that requirement, meaning emergency ordinances could be approved by four council members. It also provides that an emergency ordinance can be passed on one reading instead of three readings. The charter now limits emergency appropriations to 10 percent of the current tax levy; the change would increase that limit to 30 percent, but only if the governor declares a disaster.
17. Capital program. Currently, the city manager must submit a capital program along with the annual budget, and it must include the planning and zoning commission (P&Z) program. Since the budget includes all city departments, this proposal eliminates the separate requirement for a P&Z program.
18. City depositor. The city council designates where city funds are deposited. That must now be done by city ordinance; the change would let the council designate a depository by resolution instead of by ordinance. It also allows the city manager to set the procedures for withdrawing funds.
19. Liens and security interests. The city council can now put a lien on property for which taxes are overdue, but must pass an ordinance to do that. The change eliminates the need for a separate ordinance for each property lien.
20. Library board. Under the current charter article, the library board advises the city council on the "planning, development, use, regulation, operation, and maintenance of the Port Aransas Library." It supervises and governs the library and nominates the librarian who is appointed by the city council. The proposed change makes the library board an advisor to the city manager instead of the city council and eliminates the board's authority to "supervise and govern the public library." The charter now says only the board chairman or the city council can call a board meeting; this change would allow the city manager to call a meeting of the library board. Charter review commission members said the changes bring the city more in line with the council-manager form of government.
21. Planning and zoning. The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) must now submit an annual recommendation on capital improvements. This change eliminates that requirement (see No. 17, above).
Next week: The final part of the series examines the city's power to operate utilities and to regulate franchises.