First in a series.
- City Charter Amendments Nos. 1-10
- City Charter Amendments Nos. 11-20
- City Charter Amendments Nos. 21-30
- City Charter Amendments Nos. 31-40
- City Charter Amendments Nos. 41-50
- City Charter Amendments Nos. 51-60
- City Charter Amendments Nos. 61-70
- City Charter Amendments Nos. 71-83
I divide the propositions into several categories: cosmetic changes (affecting spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc., but not meaning); cleanup changes (where outdated or confusing language is changed but not the meaning); minor changes (substantive changes to the powers of government but of a minor nature); and substantive changes (changes to the powers of government of more significant nature). I can't decide how to categorize some propositions. In some cases, I don't have enough information to decide whether a change really only "simplifies" and "clarifies" the charter, as a proposition might claim, or whether it hides substantive changes. You'll see what I mean.
With 83 propositions, it's going to take more than a single cheat sheet -- more like eight or so. So let's get started. Here are my recommendations for Propositions Nos. 1-10. Recommendations for the rest will be coming in due time.
- Proposition No. 1: Shall Section 3.01(a) of the Charter be amended to clarify that the city council consists of seven (7) members comprised of a mayor and six (6) council members and to add definitions for the words and phrases "city council", "council", "council member", "member of the city council", and "member of the council" to ensure consistent application and interpretation throughout the charter.
YES. Cleanup. This eliminates confusing language inserted by whoever drafted the 2012 charter amendment that instituted direct election of the mayor. The new change is consistent with the (presumed) intent of that unknown 2012 drafter.
- Proposition No. 2: Shall Section 3.02 of the Charter be amended to delete the last sentence referencing the mayor's term of office of two (2) years which is already stated in Section 3.01.
YES. Cleanup. This eliminates a redundant clause.
- Proposition No. 3: Shall Section 3.07 of the Charter be amended to provide that a vacancy in the office of mayor shall be filled by special election and the provisions of Section 3.03 of the Charter providing for the mayor pro tem to assume the office of mayor in the event of a vacancy in the office of the mayor be repealed.
YES. Substantive change. This is the change voters need to approve in order to be able to vote for the mayor's replacement in case the mayor resigns or otherwise leaves office.
- Proposition No. 4: Shall Section 3.07 of the Charter be amended to provide that vacancies in the office of the six (6) council members not including the mayor be filled by special election when there are two (2) or more vacancies of the six (6) council members other than the mayor, without amending the provision that allows the city council to fill by appointment a single vacancy in the office of council member, other than mayor.
YES. Substantive change. Currently, the charter requires three or more vacancies to trigger a special election. With this amendment, two vacancies will trigger a special election. I would prefer to see even a single vacancy filled by special election, but this amendment is a step in the right direction.
- Proposition No. 5: Shall Section 3.10 of the Charter relating to meetings of the city council being open to the public be amended to clarify that, except for emergency called meetings and authorized closed meetings, it is the meetings of the city council which are open to the public at which citizens are allowed by the rules of the city council to be heard in regard to any matter considered at such meetings.
NO. Substantive change. Despite the wording in the proposition that this amendment is to "clarify" the existing language, the amendment would in fact eliminate the right of the public to be heard at certain city council meetings ("emergency meetings and authorized closed meetings"). This proposition also would eliminate the right of the public to attend meetings of the council committees (e.g., the Audit Committee, Education Committee, and Retail Committee). I recommend a "NO" vote because the City of Richardson ought to expand the right of the public to be heard, not further restrict that right.
- Proposition No. 6: Shall Section 3.11 of the Charter relating to the minimum number of members of the city council required to be present in order for the city council to hold a meeting be amended to clarify that the mayor is included in determining the required number for a quorum and to delete language not related to the definition of a quorum. [This analysis of Proposition No. 5 was updated to include the impact on attendance at meetings of council committees.]
YES. Cleanup. The deleted language regarding compelling the attendance of absent council members is redundant with Section 3.12.
- Proposition No. 7: Shall Section 3.12 of the Charter relating to voting and rules of procedures for the city council be amended to clarify that references to "council" in said section means all members of the city council, including the mayor.
YES. Cleanup. More repair of the handiwork of the drafter of the 2012 charter amendments.
- Proposition No. 8: Shall Section 6.01 of the Charter relating to the terms of appointment of the city manager by the city council be amended to clarify that the city manager, who under the current charter is appointed without a fixed period of time, is accountable to the city council for the proper administration of the city and eliminating inconsistent language.
NO. Substantive change. Despite the wording in the proposition that this amendment is to "clarify" the existing language, the amendment eliminates a restriction currently in place on the length of a contract with the city manager. Currently, such (optional) contracts can not exceed two years, ensuring that each city council will have the ability sometime during its term to review/modify/renew any such contract with the city manager. Eliminating the two year maximum would allow one council to bind future councils to long contracts with the city manager without chance to review/modify/renew any time during the future council's term. Future councils would still retain the right to remove the city manager at their will and pleasure, but they may have to "buy out" a long term contract, if one was entered into by the previous council. Depending on the terms of the contract negotiated by a previous council, the financial impact of such removal could be significant. I recommend a "NO" vote.
- Proposition No. 9: Shall Section 9.04 of the Charter relating to the meetings of city boards and commissions be amended to clarify that, except as otherwise permitted by state law, all meetings of the city board and commissions are open to the public for which minutes are to be kept.
- Proposition No. 10: Shall Section 11.02 of the Charter relating to the preparation of the city budget by the city manager be amended to delete the list of the required contents of the city manager's budget message and provide in lieu thereof that the budget prepared by the city manager will comply with, and contain such information, as required by state law.
NO. Maybe cleanup, maybe substantive. The current charter lists seven items that a proposed budget must include. I have no idea how many of these items are required by state law. All? Some? None? The proposition doesn't say. It doesn't cite relevant state law. The charter review commission didn't leave any artifacts to say either. I consider it burdensome to expect the voters to be so familiar with state law that they can answer this question themselves. Without better supporting documentation from the charter review commission, I recommend a "NO" vote on this amendment. If the amendment is truly only a cosmetic change, then a "NO" vote will have no negative impact. But if the amendment is actually more than a cosmetic change (even if only unintentionally) then a "NO" vote could save the residents of Richardson from deleting a requirement over and above what's required by state law, a requirement that Richardson residents might not want lost.