Charter review won’t include look at term limits

The city’s charter review commission voted Monday not to consider the issue of term limits.

The unanimous vote came after the Citizens Association – which successfully pushed for term limits in 1990 – went on record calling for their repeal.

Dan Cofran, association chairman, told the commissioners, “It takes time to learn how city government works and by the time you’re really learning it, …you’re out.”

Voters approved the limits of two consecutive terms by a wide margin after the association pressed for it 23 years ago.

But the commissioners have been meeting since June on what recommendations to make to the city council for changes in the charter, and the controversial term limits issue only surfaced recently.

For that reason, they said, they decided not to address it.

On other matters, the citizen association supported changing the city election dates from the primary Feb.14 and general election date March 24.

The commission voted last week to recommend changing the dates to days in April and June.

In two pending matters, the association is against going to a stronger mayor form of government or changing the structure of the city council.

Giving the mayor the sole power to hire and fire the city manager could be disastrous, Cofran said. “Be careful what you ask for.”

In the Tom Pendergast years, he said, city Manager Henry McElroy served as a shill for the machine and practiced what he colorfully called “country bookkeeping.”

Cofran also supported the current council system of 13 council members, which includes the mayor, six members elected from geographic districts and six members who live in the districts but are elected citywide.

Some minority groups want to change to nine council members elected in district and three citywide or to 12 council members all elected in district.

Cofran’s report states: “An all in-district council is more likely to be parochial, with city council members more focused on their own district’s needs and less on city-wide needs.”

African-American representation on the city council has been at or near 30 percent, meshing with their population percentage, he said, and voters citywide have a history of electing African-American candidates.

In other matters Monday, the commission voted to recommend a charter change that would clearly allow council members to serve on boards and commissions.

And it voted for a change that would clearly give officials the ability to abate or eliminate tax claims against properties under city law.

The city does so in cases of vacant and blighted homes that people are buying to renovate.

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