An array of possible city charter changes proposed


Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 8:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 8:54 p.m.

The City Commission's charter review process continues to move along, with no telling yet if any proposed changes will go to the voters.

To make a referendum, any proposed change to the city's government charter needs a vote of support from at least six of the seven city commissioners.

During a Tuesday evening meeting, commissioners Thomas Hawkins, Susan Bottcher and Lauren Poe spoke in support of moving city elections from the spring of every year to an every-other-year schedule that coincides with the primary and general election schedule for county, state and federal offices.

They felt it would boost voter turnout and reduce costs when elections cost in the range of $200,000 annually.

Residents Debbie Martinez and Nathan Skop, who frequently speak at meetings on biomass and utility management issues, were among the members of the public who want a referendum reducing the size of the City Commission from seven members to five members.

Martinez wants a system of an elected mayor and four single-member district commissioners. She said she felt the commission, at its current size, was less interested in input from the public.

Poe said he felt reducing the number of elected officials was a move in the "opposite direction" of improving representative government.

After multiple commissioners spoke against reducing the size of the City Commission, Skop said proponents of the move would opt for a voter petition drive to get something on the ballot.

Other potential changes discussed Tuesday include reducing the threshold required to get a future charter amendment on the ballot from the current requirement of at least six commissioners voting in support to five. Commissioner Randy Wells said the current threshold made it almost impossible to amend the charter.

Some commissioners also plan to discuss potential changes to charter officer responsibilities and the possible addition of more charter officers. Commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls would like Human Resources put under the Office of Equal Opportunity. Commissioner Thomas Hawkins broached the possibility of a charter officer in charge of community development, planning and building. There was also talk of one charter officer over all city finances.

Mayor Ed Braddy missed part of Tuesday's meeting. He did not offer support or opposition to any of the potential changes under discussion. Commissioner Todd Chase was absent.

No official votes were taken on any proposal. The City Commission's next charter review meeting is scheduled for Nov. 4.

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