Below is a Staff Report for the City Council meeting of May 19, 2015. I have left the Staff Report undisturbed.......except for my comments. The observation is underlined and my questions appear in blue and brackets. You might review my comments.......then add some of your own. We ought to build a list of questions for City Council and the Charter Committee to contemplate. I smell a rat.
AGENDA DATE: 05/19/15 AGENDA ITEM: 3C
TITLE Discuss the appointment of a Charter Review Commission, determining the Commission’s scope of review, and submitting possible Charter amendments to the voters at the November 2015 uniform election date. (45 minutes)
STAFF REPRESENTATIVE Jim Proce, Assistant City Manager
SUMMARY The City Council is required to appoint a Charter Review Commission at least once every five (5) years. Such Commissions may be appointed in the interim but not more than every two years. The City has recently received inquiries about creating a new Charter Review Commission. [Who from? Anyone currently sitting as Mayor or City Council? WHO?] The purpose of this item is to discuss creating a Commission and receive feedback on the scope of the review that Council sets. [Who determines the "scope" of the changes to be discussed? WHO?]
BACKGROUND INFORMATION In the May 12, 2015, Work Session, the Council gave consensus to staff to proceed with preparation for appointing a Charter Review Commission in accordance with the Charter provisions, inclusive of items of interest for the scope of review. [Apparently, this was decided before last work session.........by WHO?]
According to the Home Rule Charter for the City of Rowlett, Article XII – Adoption of Charter, Section 12.03 – Charter Review Commission, “City Council shall appoint a Charter Review Commission at least once every five years. The Charter Review Commission shall consist of seven citizens of the City.” As discussed in the May 12, 2015, Work Session, we are not due for this action until May, 2018 and we are currently in compliance.
According to the Home Rule Charter for the City of Rowlett, Article XII – Adoption of Charter, Section 12.02 – Amendment of the Charter, “Amendments to this Charter may be framed and submitted to the qualified voters of the City as provided by the Texas Constitution and the laws of the State as presently enacted or hereafter amended; but no more often than once every two (2) years, as provided by the laws of the State.”
The Charter was last amended in May, 2013, so there is opportunity should the Council be desirous of such a review at this time.
According to the Home Rule Charter for the City of Rowlett, Article XII – Adoption of Charter, Section 12.04 – Administrative Amendment, The Charter additionally allows for Administrative Amendments, “The City Council may provide by ordinance, after conducting two public
hearings, to amend, alter or reformat any provisions and to amend statutory or State law references and/or endnotes of this Charter, but may not in any circumstance [as determined by who?] substantively change any portion of the same without compliance with State law and this Article.” Should the findings of the Commission not be substantive changes, there would be no need for an election. [Again, as determined by who? This whole passage sounds like a empirical edict. Who decides this "stuff." We are not being given enough info.]
Finally, the Charter also states, “The City Council shall determine the scope of the review by the Commission. The Commission shall determine whether the Charter requires revision or amendment. The Commission may request factual information concerning the operation of the City and such information may be provided in writing or orally. The Commission may hold public hearings regarding the Charter. The Commission shall make recommendations for changes to the Charter without any consideration of the impact upon staff or cost to the City. The Commission shall report its findings and present its recommendations regarding the Charter to the City Council at a regular or special meeting.”
DISCUSSION Possible issues to be considered by the Commission and City Council may include such items as Term Limits [SURPRISE!, SURPRISE!],and their related conditions or any other points of review that the Council may desire.
In order to provide the option for a Charter Amendment Election on November 3, 2015, a short timeline will have to be adhered to in an effort to complete the review and prepare for an election within the State requirements. Key dates are tabulated as follows:
Last Day to Order General Election Monday, August 24, 2015 Last Day to Register to Vote Monday, October 5, 2015 First Day of Early Voting Monday, October 19, 2015 Last Day of Early Voting Friday, October 30, 2015 Election Day Tuesday, November 3, 2015
With these key dates noted, if it is the desire of Council to proceed with this initiative, the following timeline is suggested:
May 19th – Continue discussion from May 12th Work Session and finalize scope of the Charter Review Commission June 2nd – Confirmation of Council appointments to the Charter Review Commission and scope of review by resolution June 9th – Tentative first meeting of Charter Review Commission July 14th – Joint meeting of Council & Charter Review Commission to discuss recommendations
Aug 11th – Decision regarding Charter Amendments for November Election and Call Election
Based upon the consensus provided at the May 12, 2015, Work Session, the scope of review includes the following items for consideration:
Textual rewrite of the document that would be completed/overseen by the City Attorney Omission of or revisions to term limits for Council Members of the City of Rowlett Determination of appropriate compensation for Council Members of the City of Rowlett Prohibition of alcohol sales in strictly residential zoning (exclusion of mixed use FBC)
The next steps in the process will include choosing members for the Commission to be confirmed at the next regular Council meeting and confirmation of the scope of assignments for the Charter Review Commission. This should be executed no later than June 2, 2015, in order to provide the Commission the opportunity to complete the required tasks in the limited time available to achieve the August deadline to file. FINANCIAL/BUDGET IMPLICATIONS The cost of a November Charter Amendment election will be significantly higher than a uniform election date typically held in May with the City’s General Election. This is mainly due to the fact that in May, most municipalities hold their general elections and we are able to receive a “bulk” rate by contracting with Dallas County Elections Department. The November election has fewer participants and the costs will be greater. Costs associated with a Charter Amendment election (if it is determined to do so) include: City Attorney costs for development of proposition language; translation fees for proposition language, election orders and notices; and increased cost for additional ballot language. If the Council wishes to proceed, staff will provide a breakdown of these costs going forward. These costs will be budgeted in the FY2016 budget. As a frame of reference, funds in the amount of $42,700 were budgeted in the FY2015 budget. At this time, the May 9, 2015, election costs are estimated at $31,368.42. This figure is subject to change after Dallas County Elections Department’s completion of their audit of election expenses.
RECOMMENDED ACTION Staff seeks direction from Council concerning the appointment of a Charter Review Commission.
ATTACHMENT Attachment 1 – City of Rowlett Home Rule Charter
This whole thing doesn't pass the smell test. One would have to be completely daft to not see that the "urgency" to modify the City Charter under the above provisions is to do one thing.........to extend limits so that some sitting officials don't have to end their time on City Council. We seem to have some people that have found a home. They like being there. Let's see, that must be because they have an unquenchable thirst to provide services to the citizens of Rowlett. Sure, they do. Did I also see somewhere that the pay for councilpersons was to be adjusted? I really don't like this.
This entire drama is intended to provide additional time for sitting councilmembers that don't want to leave office in the election next may.
And you wonder why people think they get hoodwinked by Rowlett "OFFICIALDOM." Duh.