The city’s Ad-Hoc Charter Advisory Committee is moving to a hybrid of in-person and virtual meetings beginning next week as it continues to review possible charter changes voters may be asked to approve in the November general election.
City Council provided a list of possible amendments to the committee in February, which it will research and make recommendations on.
The council addresses possible charter amendments every two years, but its last attempt in 2020 was scrapped after the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in the community. The last time the City Charter was amended was in 2018.
The next meeting will be at City Hall, 300 N. Campbell, in the main conference room and virtually at 3:30 p.m. March 24.
Among the recommendations the committee will review are eliminating the mayor’s veto and tie-breaking power. The change would allow the mayor to vote on every agenda item instead of voting only to break tie votes.
The committee has held two meetings and has started the process of determining which council recommendations will be further evaluated. The committee voted to pause discussions on changing city election dates from November back to May, but may revisit the item before they make final recommendations to City Council.
The charter recommendation to change the term limits for City Council representatives — eliminating the current 10-year cap if a representative is elected to fill an unexpired term — may be adjusted to recommend that if a city representative is elected to fill an unexpired term then that unexpired term will not be counted as one of the two four-year terms.
The current language in the City Charter states that no mayor or representative may hold such office for more than a total of 10 years throughout their lifetime. The current time limit has been in place since 2004.
The committee will not move forward with the council recommendation to develop an independent redistricting committee.
Voting boundaries for elected officials at the local, state and federal level are redrawn every 10 years following the release of decennial U.S. Census data. The new boundaries for the eight city representative districts are redrawn to reflect changes in the city’s population.
City representatives appoint members to its redistricting commission which meets to establish new boundaries that are recommended to City Council. The council votes to approve final changes to city representative boundaries.
City staff advised the charter committee that Austin is the only other city in Texas that has an independent commission and the process to establish it was costly, complex and time-intensive with several legal requirements.
Karina Brasgalla, a lead planner with the city who is assisting the city’s redistricting commission, said the cost for Austin’s independent commission was about $5 million.
The commission will review more City Council recommendations during its next meeting. City officials said there will be public outreach meetings once the list of recommendations is more complete.
To participate in the city’s Ad-Hoc Charter Advisory Committee meetings –
In person: City Hall, 300 N. Campbell main conference room and virtually at 3:30 p.m. March 24
To view the proposed City Council charter amendments, click here.
Cover photo: An El Paso City Council meeting on Oct. 26, 2021. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)