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.