The Port Arthur News
One proposition on Saturday’s ballot would make a significant change in the way Pleasure Island is managed, and we don’t think it would be a change for the better. Another proposition would allow taxpayer dollars to be spent on entertainment and for other uses without defining what those uses would be. We urge voters to vote no on Propositions 11 and 12.
Proposition 11 would make the Pleasure Island Commission an advisory board and would put the actual decision making into the hands of city employees under the direction of the city manager. The Island Commission is made up of individuals appointed by the city council and they have diligently worked to improve the island for use by the public. Despite the near complete devastation on the Island caused by Hurricanes Rita and Ike, the Island Commission and its small staff have led a comeback resulting in the golf course being rebuilt, a new state-of-the-art marina, fishing piers and other amenities.
The charter change was proposed because of the mistaken belief that the commission relies on money from the city for the maintenance and operations on the island. That’s simply not true. The Island lives on money it raises through fees and leases. Negotiations are under way for an industrial facility on the south end of the island that would result in much more revenue for the commission to use for public improvements. We’re concerned that if the island is turned over for the city to control like one of its parks, that money will be siphoned off into the general fund and will never benefit the public that uses Pleasure Island. Voters should vote no to keep the Pleasure Island Commission and the funds it raises in place.
Proposition 12 is not one of the charter change proposals, it is on the ballot because of a petition drive by the management of a low-power radio station that hopes to gain access to EDC funds. Using EDC funds to create jobs or train people to get jobs would be legitimate, but there is nothing in the proposition about that. It says up to $400,000 a year for three years could be used for land, buildings, etc., suitable for use for entertainment. Nothing about jobs, nothing about radio stations. Prop. 12 funds could just as well be used for a gentlemen’s club or bar. There may come a time to use EDC funds for additional quality of life improvements, but voters should insist their tax dollars be used for projects that are well planned and explained, not for simply undefined “entertainment” purposes. Vote no on Prop. 12.
First 10 propositions deserve voter OK
A charter change committee composed of residents appointed by City Council met regularly for several months studying the city’s governing document. They were the first group to have studied the charter for updates in at least a decade and as a result of their work, 11 charter changes were proposed. City Council did minor tinkering with the charter change committee’s proposal and referred the 11 changes to the voters to be decided in Saturday’s election. We encourage voters to approve the first 10 charter change proposals.
We commend the charter change committee for their good work and urge voters to give careful consideration to the changes proposed, especially Propositions 2 and 6.
Prop. 2 would limit the mayor and all council members to two consecutive three-year terms and would allow candidates running for Positions 7 and 8 on the council to live anywhere in the city. Currently, the mayor and council members are allowed to serve three consecutive terms.
Prop. 6 would require that all council members receive a majority of votes, more than 50 percent, to win election. Currently Positions 7 and 8 are elected with a plurality of the votes, meaning the candidate receiving the most votes wins, even if it is not more than 50 percent or the votes. The change could result in runoff elections if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes.
A synopsis of the other charter changes:
• Prop. 1 adds a preamble to the Charter.
• Prop. 3 changes the minimum age to run for mayor or city council from 21 years old to 18 years old.
• Prop. 4 allows the voters to have the final say at the polls on changes to the pay for mayor and council members.
• Prop. 5 would strip the City Council the power to investigate the affairs of any department or the conduct of any employee. The council would retain power to conduct an investigation of any council member or appointed officer.
• Prop. 7 raises the amount of money the city manger can spend on budgeted items without council approval, from $5,000 to $25,000. Council would continue to be apprised of the expenditures below $25,000 each month.
• Prop. 8 boosts the chances of Port Arthur businesses receiving city contracts by giving local businesses primary consideration, as allowed by law.
• Prop. 9 brings the charter into agreement with state law on residency requirements. Currently, all permanent city employees are required to be Port Arthur residents, but state law prohibits this requirement. Under this proposition, only those employees appointed by City Council — the city manager, city secretary, city attorney and municipal court judge — are required to live in Port Arthur. The proposition also states that appointees to city boards and committees, where possible, should reside in Port Arthur.