Lakeway officials continue charter review with focus on fixing election process

Lakeway City Council met for a special meeting May 4. (Screenshot courtesy city of Lakeway)
Lakeway City Council met for a special meeting May 4. (Screenshot courtesy city of Lakeway)

Lakeway City Council met for a special meeting May 4. (Screenshot courtesy city of Lakeway)

Several "must-fix" issues involving conflicts with state law and the city's charter have lead Lakeway officials to move forward with a charter review process that could culminate in a special November election.

The issues under discussion center on runoff elections, bond authorization elections, filling City Council vacancies and city boundary extensions, among others.

City Council discussed needed changes to the charter at length during a special called meeting May 4.

Dave DeOme, the charter review committee chair and former Lakeway mayor, said the Lakeway charter requires a review every four years, but this review is taking place only two years from the most recent prior review. A major reason for the early review process, he said, is to hasten congruency between the city and the state with regard to election policy.

"We felt the City Council wanted us to focus on the inconsistency between our city charter and the Texas Constitution," DeOme said.

In one example dealing with two-year versus three-year term limits for City Council members and how those term limits would apply to runoff elections, the committee's report suggests calling a runoff election between two candidates receiving the first- and second-most votes in a general election. This would change from existing verbiage stating council call a runoff election "among the candidates who receive an equal number of votes."

In another example, the committee proposed changing an existing charter stipulation requiring Lakeway's city manager to live in Lakeway.

During discussion of the committee's suggestions, council members sought clarification on a fix pertaining to establishing three-year terms for City Council members. Council members currently operate under two-year terms, but DeOme said an election in 2014 saw Lakeway residents vote in three-year terms for council members, and that has still not been rectified.

"When we get done with this, I want to have a wholly valid election system within our city charter," Mayor Sandy Cox said. "The primary reason we created this charter committee ... was to fix this issue."

Per other issues appearing on the charter committee's report, officials also discussed extensively whether council elections should be moved from May to November and the prospect of establishing places 1-6 for each council member as opposed to the Lakeway government's existing at-large system.

City Attorney Cobby Caputo said with regard to navigating the move to three-year terms, moving from May to November elections and establishing places for council members, those would likely need to all appear on one ballot initiative in November.

To get more information prior to making a decision on when to hold future elections, Cox requested November and May polling data from Travis County, as well as information on cost totals of previous Lakeway elections.

Council took no action and will likely continue discussion on changes to the Lakeway city charter in June.

The proposed timeline for the remainder of the process, according to city documents, is:

• June 22: Discuss proposed ballot propositions (public hearing)

• July 20: City Council gives final approval of proposed ballot propositions (public hearing)

• Aug. 17: Order a special election by ordinance (public hearing)

• Nov. 2: 2020 proposed charter amendments special election
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018. From there he became a dual-market editor for Community Impact's New Braunfels and San Marcos-Buda-Kyle editions. Brian is now a senior editor for the company's flagship papers, the Round Rock and Pflugerville-Hutto editions.