Missouri City City Council gave initial approval to six charter amendments and a May election where residents will vote on each proposed amendment during its Jan. 11 special meeting.
Each of the six charter amendments was recommended by the 2020 Charter Review Commission, a committee of five Missouri City residents which meets every four years to discuss proposed changes to the city charter. The charter outlines how the city government is structured as well as its rules and procedures.
The six proposed charter amendments are as follows:
- to delete the provision in the charter that states the mayor shall act as chief administrative officer until a city manager is appointed;
- to extend the term of mayor and all City Council positions from two to four years;
- to limit council service to 12 consecutive years before requiring a minimum two-year sit-out period before an individual can serve on council again;
- to change the amount of time the city manager may transfer unencumbered funds from 60 to 90 days after the end of any given fiscal year;
- to clarify that bids are only required to be received and considered by council for competitive bond sales; and
- to change the appointment month of Charter Review Commission members from July to January.
Assistant City Attorney James Santangelo, who presented the Charter Review Commission's findings to council, said the two most discussed items were the ones pertaining to term length and term limits.
“The term length and the term limit were probably the longest discussed and liveliest discussed items because there were so many alternatives presented, and people did have some strong feelings about whether a council member’s term of service should be limited to a certain number of terms or a certain number of years,” Santangelo said.
Council discussed revising the proposed charter amendment to increase the length of terms from two years to three years but settled on the commission’s recommendation of increasing the term length to four years.
“I agree with the four-year terms,” Council Member Vashandra Edwards said. “I do think you need enough time to make sure you understand how the City Council is ran, how the position is ran and give you time to be comfortable within the position—I believe four years will give you that comfortability.”
If this particular charter amendment is approved by voters in May, the four-year terms will go into effect for the district council members beginning after the November 2021 election and beginning after the November 2022 election for the at-large and mayoral positions, City Attorney E. Joyce Iyamu said.
While all council members voted in favor of putting the charter amendment related to term length on the ballot, only Edwards voted against moving forward with the rest of the charter amendments—which were added in one vote.
Edwards objected to the proposed charter amendment that would remove the mayor as the chief administrative officer during periods when there is no sitting city manager. Edwards said she was concerned this was an attack on the previous administration. Former Mayor Yolanda Ford served as chief administrative officer under this provision in the interim between City Managers Anthony Snipes and Odis Jones.
However, Santangelo said this amendment was included because the current language contradicts with two other sections of the charter that say no one on council should hold another city office or employment during an elected term and that no City Council member should also serve as the city secretary, city manager or acting city manager.
City staff will draft an ordinance calling for the election as well as ballot language, which will be presented to council for final approval at an upcoming meeting. Council still has the opportunity to add additional charter amendments to the ballot.
If the council moves forward with an election, Missouri City residents will be able to vote for or against amending the city charter during a May 1 special election.