City Hall

A proposal that would increase the number of consecutive terms allowed mayors and city council members is among 19 ballot propositions being considered for the May 2 election.

The city’s current charter, approved by voters in 1966, limits a council member (the mayor is the only councilmember elected at large rather than by district) to two three-year consecutive terms and no more than three three-year terms in a lifetime.

Voters have amended the charter twice, in 1995 and 2005, when revising term limits was one of two failing propositions among 39 on the ballot. Proposition 5 was defeated by 683 votes, 2,305 to 1,622. 

However Wayne Peters, outgoing District 5 council member, said more and more municipalities have adopted similar moves.

“I’ve never understood the logic behind limiting terms in this way,” said Peters, noting those who served six consecutive years have to wait another three years before seeking a final three-year term. 

“It impacts bond elections, which typically take between six to eight years to finish the projects approved by voters,” he said. “To me, having a council member serve three consecutive terms to see those projects finished makes sense. The three, three-year term limit still exists.”

The term limit proposal is among 19 charter amendments, or propositions, City Council will likely approve for the May 2 ballot. Six proposition address minor clarifications and corrections; five address duties and responsibilities of the city manager; and three address city council terms and vacancies.

“I’ve been working on this for two years — I’ve probably met with (City Attorney) Val Acevedo about 50 times,” Peters said. 

Peters and Acevedo reviewed some of the highlights at the Jan. 13 council meeting.

“So far, I haven’t gotten anything back that would change anything. (Mayor) Barron (Casteel) had some suggestions,” he said. “I’m expecting council will approve them.”

More than one proposition addresses vacated council seats, which now are filled by a special election within 120 days of the vacancy. 

One amendment would allow City Council power to appoint a temporary replacement until the next election; call for a special election, or leave the position vacant until the next election cycle. 

It still requires a special election for unexpired terms with more than 12 months remaining. Another proposition allows for penalties and forfeiture if a council member intentionally resigns and then re-runs to avoid term-limit restrictions.

Other charter proposals would redefine some responsibilities of the city manager to reflect actual current practices (annual five-year financial and capital forecasts) and align with state statute. 

Two propositions address outdated powers for mayors to exercise in times of an emergency, and allow the mayor pro tem to prepare performance reviews of the city manager, city attorney, city manager and municipal court judge, for City Council consideration.

Other propositions erase or update language in the original charter, such as the city’s department of taxation that no longer exists. Another would give City Council authority to correct typographical errors and minor charter provisions without calling for an election.

City Council will consider the first reading of an ordinance calling for the propositions placed on the May ballot. 

Peters said that language, still being worked out, could take until the second reading on Feb. 10.

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