A standing City Charter Commission will soon be established in San Antonio with the task of reviewing and recommending changes to San Antonio’s 1951 City Charter by Feb. 19, in time for the proposed amendments to be placed on the May 9 city ballot.
Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras III briefed City Council Thursday on the creation, structure, and terms of appointment of the commission, with members being subject to appointment every two years in the month of June following May city elections. A standing commission itself is a significant change in San Antonio, where the 63-year-old City Charter has been subject to few attempts to update it over the decades.
Two key issues are at the heart of the commission’s creation.
One is the persistent issue of compensation for the Mayor and Council. Each of the 11 officeholders earn a token $20 a week for their full-time service. Mayor Ivy Taylor earns an additional $3,000 annual stipend, bringing her weekly pay to $77 and change.
(Read more: San Antonio and the Question of City Council Pay.)
The second issue is how the Council chooses an interim mayor in the event that an elected mayor steps down from office before his or her term expires, as did former Mayor Julián Castro in August to become the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Administration. Taylor was elected by her peers on the Council in an open series of votes that left everyone uncomfortable with the process.
Some reform advocates want to open up any future election to outside candidates and not limit nominations to those holding Council office. Others want the matter settled at the polls in a special election.
The 13-member commission will be appointed by Mayor Taylor after she receives recommendations from staff, the Council, and the community. Once appointed, the Commission will meet in sessions open to the public. Members will serve two-year terms, although the inaugural members will only serve until May 31, 2015, when they can be reappointed for a full term.
Unlike many such commissions where each Council member gets to nominate a member from his or her district, there will be only seven community representatives. There also will be two former elected city officials, one former city employee, one expert in municipal law, one human resources expert, and one municipal finance expert. City staff will present the recommended appointments to the Mayor, which City Council must then approve.
The commission will be free to recommend other charter changes beyond mayoral and council pay and election of an interim mayor. Recommendations from the commission will go before the full City Council, which will have until Feb. 19 to act.
The Rivard Report will publish how readers can contact city government to express an interest in serving on the commission as soon as we receive further details.
*Featured/top image: San Antonio City Council. Photo by Robert Rivard.