TAYLOR, Texas (KXAN) — A second petition was submitted to the city of Taylor this year that, if verified to have the right amount of valid signatures, would give voters the opportunity to vote on four new amendments to the city’s charter during the May election.
This petition is similar to the referendum initiative that was turned into the city in September. Both petitions are trying to reverse the controversial pay raise city council members gave themselves in August, but it takes things a step further.
Gary Gola, one of the creators of the proposed charter amendments, said a referendum would overturn the ordinance that council passed to give themselves the pay raise, but the council could turn around and pass another ordinance in the future.
“But if we choose to put it in the charter then the only way the council can change that compensation is with voter approval,” Gola explained.
He also said there is a difference when it comes to voting on a referendum and a charter amendment. In order for a referendum to successfully overturn an ordinance, 10% of the registered voters must vote in the election. Gola said a charter amendment does not need to meet that threshold.
The group behind these proposed amendment changes call themselves “We the People for Honest and Accountable Government.” The petition it turned in has four propositions for charter amendments. Here’s what it says:
Proposition A: Compensation changes
The first proposition would add a section in the city’s charter concerning with compensation for council members. It would set a flat rate of $125 for each meeting a council member attends. There are two meetings per month.
Since Oct. 1, each council member has been receiving $500 each meeting while the mayor receives $750 per meeting. In September, a petition, lead by Taylor resident Terry Burris, garnered more than 1,300 signatures to call for a referendum vote on the pay raise. Last week the council voted to place the referendum on the May ballot.
“The message we’re sending is they need to listen to the citizens, and carry out the wishes of the citizens,” Gola said.
Proposition B: Waiting period for ordinances
Proposition B would set a minimum amount of time an ordinance can be introduced and adopted. According to city law, an ordinance must be introduced at a city council meeting and then adopted at the next city council meeting.
This proposition would mandate that a 72-hour wait period from when a non-emergency ordinance is introduced to when it is adopted. It is in response to how the council passed the pay raise ordinance.
In August, the council called back-to-back special city council meetings on the same day to introduce the pay raise and then adopt it.
Proposition C: Electing a mayor
Proposition C would give Taylor residents to power to directly elect their mayor. Currently the council is set up with five members on the dais. Four members each represent a district with one at-large member. Those five members then decide who will serve as the mayor.
This proposed amendment change would make the at-large position the mayor. That would give every vote in town the ability to directly vote for who they want to be mayor.
“Just like our founding fathers, we the people are here to reaffirm that our government, both federal and local, exists to serve the citizens,” Shannon Luedtke, a supporter of the petition, said to council members last week.
Proposition D: Holding city council meetings in Taylor
The fourth proposition deals with city council meetings and would make it a requirement that all future meetings be held within Taylor city limits so its residents can attend. This is in response to a meeting on May 19 that was held at a resort in Horseshoe Bay.
The meeting was during a retreat and workshop with city directors.
Back story to petitions
Both the referendum and charter amendment petitions started in the same group of people. Gola said a group of concerned citizens got together after council passed the pay raise in August. A part of that group decided to move forward with the referendum initiative while Gola and others went the direction of charter amendments.
Gola and his colleagues had 180 days to gather the necessary 475 signatures to make the petition valid. He said they gathered 578 signatures and decided to turn it in this month so that it would have enough time to be placed on the May ballot. The deadline for council to order an election is February 16.
The petition is in the process of being verified.