City Governance Rules Could Change in Fall Charter Election

A Charter Review Commission is in the process of putting together a series of proposals on how to make the first significant changes to San Antonio's governance structure in more than a decade, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The most significant change, according to Charter Commission member Frank Garza, would be to double the length of terms of City Council members, from the current two years to four years.

But he said the term limits which were imposed in a previous charter change election, would not change.

"There would still be an eight year limitation on how long a person could serve," he said.  "But instead of four elections that the individual would need to serve the eight years, they would have up to two elections to serve the eight years."

Garza said another proposal, to stagger the Council terms so the entire Council would not be sworn in at the same time, did not receive the support of the Charter Commission.

He says there is also a proposal to make it easier to call an election to recall sitting Council members.

"Currently, it requires ten percent of those qualified to vote in the last municipal election.  Not ten percent of those who voted, but ten percent of those who are qualified to vote.  And that number may be very difficult to achieve."

There had also been talk of moving the City Council elections from a Saturday in May, when turnout is tiny, to Election Day in November, but it turned out that the City doesn't have the authority to make that change.

"At this stage, we cannot look at that issue," he said.  "The legislation that would allow cities to move their municipal elections from May to November has expired."

He said the Charter Commission will urge the Council to lobby the 2019 session of the Legislature to grant that authority, but it would be too late for the proposed Charter election set for November.

Other proposals being considered by the Charter Review Commission include creating an independent ethics watchdog to cover all city officials, and to grant the city the authority to float property tax based bonds to build affordable housing, something that is becoming a more serious issue in the city as housing prices rise.

Independent groups are also urging the Charter Commission to place items on the November election.

A group is circulating petitions calling for a requirement that private employers pay a 'living wage,' of $15 to all employees, a proposal which has been blasted by the business community.

And the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association has gotten the required number of signatures on petitions to place an item on the Charter election ballot to limit the pay and the length of service of the City Manager.

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