There's sure to be a lot of head scratching in the voting booth this election. “What exactly is a charter, and what do these charter propositions mean?”
Well, a charter is a document issued by a government, in this case the City of Mansfield, outlining how it is organized and operates. Voters approved the City of Mansfield’s first charter in January 1975. Mansfield’s charter is a Home Rule Charter, meaning that the City of Mansfield has the right to local self-government and the power to regulate through local ordinances.
Often cities bring before voters amendments to their charter to either provide for new regulations or change specific sections of the charter based on several factors – the growth of the community, new services provided by the city or to bring the city charter in line with new laws passed by the state legislature. Amendments were proposed to the Mansfield charter in 1978 and 1979, both of which failed. However other amendments were approved in 1988 and 2008.
The Mansfield City Council met multiple times over the last several months to review the current charter and determine, in consultation with the City Attorney, if changes were needed. The 2020 Municipal Election features seven charter propositions for voters to consider. Here’s a list of the charter propositions on the ballot and what those proposed changes would mean:
Shall the Mansfield Home Rule Charter be amended to delete matters contrary to or superseded by state law with regard to qualifications for candidates for City Council, the Department of Taxation and amending the Charter by deleting Subsection 3.02(c) and Section 9.15 and revising Section 12.12?
The City of Mansfield Charter has sections that are contrary to what has been approved by the state legislature. Since these sections are superseded by state law, this proposition would remove them from the city charter. Those sections and changes include:
Shall the Mansfield Home Rule Charter be amended to delete the procedure for appointing the Mayor Pro Tem, thereby allowing the Council to establish the procedure by revising Subsection 3.06(b)?
Section 3.06(b) of the charter provides a procedure for appointing a Mayor Pro-Tem for the City Council. The proposition would remove references to when the Mayor Pro-Tem would be elected by City Council and how long they would serve, allowing the City Council to establish the procedure as part of the Procedural Rules of Council.
Shall the Mansfield Home Rule Charter be amended to require one reading for the approval of all ordinances save and except ordinances changing a zoning classification or approving a planned development zoning, which shall require at least two readings by revising Section 3.13(c)?
Currently Section 3.13(c) of the charter requires three readings of an ordinance to be considered and approved before the City Council. The proposition would require one reading on ordinances except zoning changes which would require at least two readings, with a possible third and final reading should the City Council vote to approve a third reading.
Shall the Mansfield Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that the City Manager may be removed by an affirmative vote of four (4) members of the City Council instead of five (5) by revising Subsection 6.01(b)?
Section 6.01(b) of the charter currently requires at least five members of City Council vote to suspend or remove the City Manager from their duties. This proposition would require at least four members of Council.
Shall the Mansfield Home Rule Charter be amended to establish the duties of the City Secretary, provide that the City Council appoint the City Attorney and the City Secretary, and may remove each by an affirmative vote of four (4) members by adding Section 6.03 and revising Section 8.05?
Section 6.03 would be a new section under Article VI (Administrative Services) that would have the City Council, appoint the City Secretary, who is currently hired by the City Manager. Section 8.05 currently requires the City Manager to appoint the City Attorney. This proposition would have the City Attorney appointed by the Council.
Shall the Mansfield Home Rule Charter be amended to require members of the Planning and Zoning Commission be residents, but need not own property in Mansfield and to delete the requirement that a member resign their position before running for City Council by revising Section 10.01?
Currently Section 10.01 requires that members of the Planning and Zoning Commission not only be residents but also own real property in the city. This proposition would amend the charter to require that residents who do not own real property in the city may serve on the commission. It would also delete the requirement that any P&Z commissioner seeking to run for City Council must resign their position before running.
Shall the Mansfield Home Rule Charter be amended to provide that a quorum of the City Council shall be four (4) Council Members, that three (3) members shall be required to call a special meeting or to approve an emergency ordinance by revising Sections 3.09 and 3.14?
Section 3.09 currently allows for City Council meetings to be held on the call of the Mayor or four members of the Council. It also dictates that five members of Council must be present to constitute a quorum. The proposition would amend that requirement to three members of Council can call a meeting, and also that four members of Council would constitute a quorum. Section 3.14 in regards to emergency ordinances currently requires an affirmative vote of four members of Council to adopt an emergency ordinance. The proposition would amend the charter to allow for an affirmative vote of three members of Council to adopt an emergency ordinance.