Many people have been asking me questions about the petition, and what it would do and why. So here are some of my answers (I will try not to editorialize.)
Q: Why are all 3 charter amendments packaged into one?
A: Originally we thought we were going to have to do 3 separate petitions, but since all three of the amendments/changes are in the SAME section in the charter, it is unneeded.
Q: What if I like 1 or 2 of the amendments but not the other ones?
A: Since all 3 of these items are in the same section, it is essential that they ALL pass or fail together. In other words, for these amendments to actually change the charter positively they have to pass together.
Q: Why change the council elections back to simple plurality?
A: Besides the fact that former councilor Rex Rolfing should have never changed it to begin with, in the original charter, it was simple plurality. It also saves the taxpayers money in expensive run-off elections, and makes it more affordable for â€˜regular’ citizens to run for office.
Q: Why take the mayor off the city council and eliminate the tie-breaker vote?
A: Historically, in cities larger than 50K, who have home rule charters, the mayor is NOT a part of the council. And even in our charter, as a strong mayor, the mayor, no matter who they are, shouldn’t be involved in council business. In the charter currently it is spelled out that the mayor’s chief duty is to run the daily operations of the city, and city staff. He is welcome to suggest policy changes to the city council, but he really shouldn’t be voting on them. Currently, that is how it works for the council (the legislative/policy body of the city). City councilors CANNOT tell city staff what to do (only their staff, which consists, I believe 8 people). Why? Because they are in charge of making policy and the purse strings. This is also spelled out clearly in the charter. Even with this change, the Mayor will still have veto power (which I think IS important).
Q: What will happen if the mayor is removed from council and there is tie vote (4/4)?
A: The item will then FAIL. It will require a simple majority (5) to pass any items (unless it is judicial, etc, which requires 6 votes. Overturning VETOES also requires 6 votes).
Q: How will requiring a super-majority for bonding make passing bonds BETTER?
A: I believe, this is the most important amendment out of all three. Essentially, the first duty of any elected official is protecting the taxpayers from irresponsible spending. We saw this with the City Administration building and the Bunker Ramp. This will get the council to work harder on consensus. IMO, I think ANY bonding should get the support of ALL 8 councilors, but this is good first step.
Q: Will there be a dollar amount attached to the bonding passage requirement?
A: NO. Whether the city wants to bond for $1 or $100 million dollars, it will require a super-majority of 6 votes. IMO, I think any bonds over $20 million should be approved by voters. But this is a good first step.
Q: Will the changes be on the Spring city election ballot?
A: Maybe. Our hope is that we collect enough in time to call a special election (required by charter) in or around Dec-Feb. If it passes, the changes would be immediate.
Q: Why not just have the Charter Revision Commission put these changes on the ballot?
A: I would agree, that would be ideal instead of a long and messy petition process. But as CRC Chair Justin Smith said during last year’s CRC meetings, he feared putting anything on the ballot because it would likely pass. Unfortunately, that shouldn’t be the CRC’s concern, they should only be concerned if a proposed amendment is LEGAL or not, that is why several lawyers, including Smith, are appointed to the commission. His comments lead us to believe they have NO desire to put anything on the Spring ballot except for minor lanquage changes required by state law. I may be wrong, but I have watched the CRC for several years, and a majority of the members rarely like to â€˜make waves’. I have also watched the current chair slowly build a compelling case as to why he doesn’t want to put anything on the ballot. It’s unfortunate, but like our inept state legislature, it looks like the only way to make positive change is thru petitioning.
If you have any other questions, leave them in the comment area.