Efforts to change PA charter fail

Published 4:03 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Efforts to change the city’s charter during the May 2016 city elections fell flat Tuesday when two agenda items failed to get the number of votes needed for approval.

One of the items did not even make it onto the agenda.

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At Tuesday night’s regular meeting, City Council exercised its ability to remove an item from the agenda, and promptly did so with a charter change proposed by District 5 Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis.

Lewis had wanted to give voters the opportunity to return the election of places 7 and 8 to plurality vote, or eliminate the two at-large council seats altogether.

The measure failed to get enough traction with the City Council to get on the ballot, and did so without any discussion — something Lewis took issue with.

“You cannot remove this without discussion,” Lewis said.

City Attorney Val Tizeno, following a recess of the board, explained that a city ordinance passed on April 28 allows any item to be taken off the agenda as long as there is a two-thirds vote to do so.

If an item is identified to be taken off the agenda, it is non-debatable, Tizeno said.

At Tuesday’s meeting the vote was 6-3 in favor of changing the agenda. Voting against the change was Lewis, District 1 Councilman Raymond Scott Jr., and District 4 Councilman Stephen A. Mosely.

Lewis accused the board of “daisy chaining,” — a practice whereby elected officials circumvent Texas Open Meetings laws typically by calling one another, or meeting in numbers less than a quorum, to discuss city business outside of a scheduled meeting date.

“You all have had a meeting somewhere or daisy chaining on the phone to plot to do this,” Lewis said.

Lewis’ agenda item was not the only one concerning charter changes that did not pass meet with Council’s approval Tuesday.

An item placed on the agenda by Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince to form a charter change committee failed.

Lewis said the committee was not needed because the just two years ago the city had a charter change election.

At the time, an 18-member committee, led by Greater Port Arthur Area Chamber of Commerce President Bill McCoy was formed to study the charter and determine what changes needed to be made.

Scott said he was concerned about the short deadline, and that the city would not have enough time to get any proposed charter changes on the May ballot.

To do so, everything would have to be ready to go by February, Tizeno said.

“Without any specifics, I am not for this,” District 3 Councilman Morris Albright III said.

Mosely said he was also against the measure.

“It’s hard for me to imagine what McCoy and his 18 member committee missed,” Mosely said.

E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews