The Austin Chronicle

Austin @ Large: Pondering the Charter

By Mike Clark-Madison, March 15, 2002, News

Here's a rundown of the proposed charter amendments brought to the City Council:

Confirmed for May ballot:

• Austin Fair Elections Act/Clean Campaigns for Austin public-financing system. Placed on ballot by citizen initiative.

• A single-member district plan for future council elections. The 8-district, 2-at-large-seats-plus-mayor (8-2-1) plan replaces the Charter Revision Committee's recommended 10 districts-plus-mayor plan. Passed last week 6-1 (Griffith).

• A "resign-to-run" provision for municipal court judges and employees hired by the council. Proposed by staff; not considered by CRC. Passed last week 6-1 (Thomas).

• Repeal of a charter requirement that officials publish campaign expense statements in an Austin newspaper. Considered but not recommended by CRC; passed last week 7-0.

Passed on first reading, to be reconsidered March 20-21:

• Repeal of 1994 charter amendment setting council term limits. Recommended by CRC. Passed last week 4-3 (Alvarez, Thomas, Wynn).

• Repeal of 1997 campaign finance system ($100 contribution limit). Recommended by CRC. Passed last week 4-3 (Alvarez, Griffith, Thomas). A suggested alternative -- amending the system to raise the limit to $500 in citywide races -- failed.

• City Council appointment of a consumer advocate, primarily for utility customers. Not recommended by CRC. Passed last week 4-3 (Garcia, Slusher, Wynn).

To be considered March 20-21:

• Increasing City Manager's purchasing authority without council approval (to $100,000 per procurement or per year of a multiyear contract). Recommended by CRC.

• City Council appointment of the police monitor and police oversight board. Recommended by CRC.

• "Sunshine amendment" prohibiting city from maintaining confidential personnel files (as authorized by state civil-service law) for police officers. Recommended by CRC.

• City Council appointment of the city attorney. Not recommended by CRC.

Turned down by City Council last week:

• Lowering the percentage of qualified voter signatures required to initiate an ordinance (from 10% to 5% of registered voters). Recommended by CRC. Died without a motion.

• City Council appointment of Austin Energy's general manager, or of an independent Austin Energy governing board. Not recommended by CRC. The first was proposed (Goodman) but then withdrawn in favor of the second; it died without a motion.

• Giving the city auditor authority to hire specialists. Died without a motion.

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