Four-Year City Council Terms Suggested as Charter Commission Holds its First Meeting

Electing San Antonio City Council members to four-year terms, rather than the two-year terms which have been standard for more than sixty years, is among the proposals being floated as a Charter Review Commission begins considering items for  a potential Charter Amendment vote this fall, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Former Councilman Richard Perez, who is a member of the Commission, says there is a lot to like about lengthening the terms of service for Council members.

"Its a lot of time and effort to run," he said.  "If the citizens have given you the opportunity to serve, it makes sense to be able to serve a little bit longer."

Four-year terms would also allow only half of the City Council to seek re-election every two years, with the odd numbered districts being up for election one year, and even numbered districts being up two years later.

That would prevent a situation that San Antonio faces this spring, when all four of the Council's north side members will be gone on June 1, depriving Council of their experience and requiring an entire chunk of the City to be represented by rookies.

Joe Krier, Mike Gallagher, and Ray Lopez are retiring, and Ron Nirenberg is leaving Council to run for Mayor.

The proposed four year terms would not change the current term limits, which are now eight years.  It would simply be a limit of two terms rather than four terms.It is also not clear whether the new longer terms would also apply to the Mayor.

Several of these issues will be hashed out at public hearings set in the coming two months.Another proposal on the table for the Charter Commission is a suggestion the the City Clerk be given the authority to rule on questions surrounding a candidate's legal residency.

There are 79 candidates on the ballot for City Council in the May elections, largely due to the last Charter Commission's decision to start paying Council members a professional salary, and Perez says questions about whether some of them live in other districts, or even in other cities, has loomed large over the campaign.

"Residency is very important, and there have been a couple folks who have come up whose residency has been 'odd'," Perez said.

Currently, the only away a residency question can be settled is if one candidate filed a lawsuit against another candidate, a bulky process which frequently isn't completed before the election.

Also on the agenda for the Charter Commission is moving municipal elections from May to November, when more voters will participate.  That is also being considered by the Legislature.

The Charter Commission is expected to decide on these and other issued by July, when the recommendations will be placed before City Council, which will make the decision on whether to place them up for a public vote in November.

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