Simple question, right? Nevertheless, a lot of money has been spent on court cases over sillier questions than this. If Richardson voters aren't careful, a lot of money could be spent having to get a legal answer to this one.
Currently, the Richardson City Charter says the city council is "composed of seven (7) members," one of whom also serves as mayor. Pretty clear, right? The mayor is a council member.
After November 6, if the proposed charter amendment passes (as it's likely to do), the charter will say the city council is "composed of six (6) members and a Mayor." The Mayor is clearly on the council. Using the common, everyday meaning of the English word "member", I'd agree that makes the Mayor a member of the council.
So, let's assume for the moment that the answer to our question is yes, the Mayor is a council member. What implications does that have elsewhere in the amended charter? After the jump, a look at Section 3.07.
Section 3.07 is titled "Vacancies" in the (soon to be) old charter. There's no doubt to whom that applies: all seven (7) members, including the member who is serving as Mayor.
The amended Section 3.07 is titled "Councilmember Vacancies." Because we've just assumed that the Mayor is also a council member, then it appears that Section 3.07 still applies to the Mayor. If so, why was the word "Councilmember" added to the title of this section? Isn't it reasonable to assume that whoever drafted the charter amendment was drawing a distinction between council member and the Mayor for the purposes of at least this section of the charter? If so, then we have at least one conflict in the uses of the word "member."
We're being asked to treat the Mayor as a council member in some cases, but not in all cases. Apparently, we can't just apply the common, everyday meaning of the word "member" throughout as we read the amended charter. We have to pick and choose a meaning depending on ... what? We do not have minutes of meetings when these details were thrashed out, no public hearings to review, we don't even know who to ask, as the author of the charter amendment has never revealed himself (herself, themselves, whatever).
Whoever drafted the charter amendment presented the voters with a careless mistake. The ambiguity opens up avenues of litigation for disgruntled citizens who have, for example, zoning ordinances go against their interest. We can Hope nothing like that happens before 2015, the earliest we can make the necessary Change to clean up the mess. "Hope and Change." That's what goes with a YES vote. Somehow, I don't think that was the message the backers of this amendment had in mind.