In addition to the two city council positions on the ballot this May, Friendswood residents will make their voices heard on six city charter amendments during the general elections.
Every five years, city council appoints members of the public to serve on a seven-member Charter Review Commission. The members work with the city attorney and city secretary to update, add, remove, revise or clarify any provisions of the charter.
The commission was appointed in August, first convened in September and completed its work in December after six meetings. The amendments were proposed to city council in January for its approval. All charter amendments require voter approval before they can be enacted.
This year’s amendments include allowing city council to fill a council vacancy by appointment, not requiring city ordinances to be posted at city hall and requiring a majority of all council to approve an item for consideration before it can be added to the public agenda. Click here to view the city’s sample ballot. And click here to read the city charter.
Early voting begins April 24 and runs through May 2. Election day is May 6.
Amendment No. 1
Proposed charter amendment: “Shall section 3.01 of the Friendswood city charter be amended to clearly provide that no person shall shall be elected to serve in any capacity on City Council for more than a total of four, three-year terms?”
Currently, the city charter’s language may allow someone to serve as mayor for 12 years and a council member for an additional 12 years before hitting a term limit. This amendment hopes to close that loophole and clarify that no person can be elected to city council in any capacity for more than four terms, said Friendswood City Attorney Arnold Polanco.
Amendment No. 2
Proposed charter amendment: “Shall section 3.01 of the Friendswood city charter be amended to update the year in which elections for each city council position are scheduled to be held?”
The amendment doesn’t change when each position would be up for re-election; each council member will still serve a three year term. The current language of the city charter states that the initial term for council position No. 2 starts in 1993, the mayor and council positions No. 1 and No. 3 start in 1994, council positions No. 4 and No. 6 start in 1995, and council position No. 5 starts in 1996. The city hopes to update the charter to reflect future election dates to make the city document more relevant and up-to-date, Polanco said.
Amendment No. 3
Proposed charter amendment: “Shall section 3.06(c) of the Friendswood city charter be amended to authorize the city council to to fill by appointment a vacancy on city council when less than one year remains in the term of office at the time the vacancy occurs?”
Due to a Texas Constitutional amendment, a home rule city like Friendswood is now allowed to fill a vacancy by a vote of a majority of council instead of holding a special election if less than one year remains on the seat’s term, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s site. Although the state constitution allows for cities to have this power, city council will only have the authority if voters approve the charter amendment, Polanco said.
Amendment No. 4
Proposed charter amendment: “Shall section 3.11(b) of the Friendswood city charter be amended to clearly provide that ordinances proposed for an agenda by a member of city council require approval of a majority of all members of the city council before forwarding to the city attorney for approval?”
This amendment is related to how topics are placed on the public agenda for consideration. The charter already requires a majority of council to agree on proposed future agenda items. Council members decide on future agenda items during their regularly scheduled monthly meetings. Once the votes are tallied and a majority of council approves discussion on a proposed agenda item, it is forwarded to the city attorney to place on a future council meeting agenda.
However, the current state of ambiguity around this section of the charter is about defining “majority,” whether it is the majority of council present at the meeting or a majority of all council regardless of how many members are present. Under the new amendment, any agenda items would require at least four votes to be considered in the future, regardless of how many council members are present at the time of the vote, Polanco said.
Amendment No. 5
Proposed charter amendment: “Shall section 3.11(b) of the Friendswood city charter be amended to eliminate the requirement the requirement that a proposed ordinance be posted at city hall at least 72 hours before first reading while maintaining the requirement that it be posted in at least one public place at least 72 hours before its first reading?”
Currently, the city posts notices of any proposed ordinance at city hall and the Friendswood Public Library. Outside of city hall, only the first page of each ordinance is posted with a note that the ordinance in its entirety can be accessed at the city secretary’s office. This amendment would not change the public’s access to records from the city secretary’s office or online, where agenda books are posted. However, this amendment would mean the city would not be required to post ordinances at city hall, Polanco said.
Amendment No. 6
Proposed charter amendment: “Shall section 3.11(b) of the Friendswood city charter be amended to provide that the reading of an ordinance which requires two readings may take place at either a regular or special council meeting?”
All city council meetings, regular or special, require public notice of at least 72 hours. Regular meetings of Friendswood City Council only occur once a month. The current charter requires ordinances to be read at two regular meetings of council. This amendment would allow council the opportunity to hear and enact ordinances within 30 days instead of waiting to convene at a regular meeting, Polanco said.
Amendment No. 7
Proposed charter amendment: “Shall section 3.11(b) of the Friendswood city charter be amended to clarify that an ordinance requiring two readings is considered rejected if approval on the final reading is not obtained within 90 days of the first reading?”
Ordinances typically go through more than one reading before they are approved by city council. Although ordinances typically go through two readings, they technically can have an indefinite number of readings. This amendment would clarify that the final reading, regardless of how many, must be approved within 90 days of the first public reading or else it is rejected, Polanco said.
Amendment No. 8
Proposed charter amendment: “Shall section 4.01, subsections (a) and (c), of the Friendswood city charter be amended to clarify that the appointment or removal of the city manager shall require an affirmative vote of five or more members of city council?”
The city charter currently calls for a supermajority of all members of city council to both appoint and terminate a city manager. This amendment clarifies that it would take at least five “yes” votes to appoint or remove a city manager rather than a supermajority of all votes cast in the case of abstentions.