City charter commission finishes its work

By Joe Lambe

The charter review commission recommended one last change Monday, approved its final report and passed some meaty matters to the city council.

It recommends the council consider putting three major changes and several lesser measures to vote of the public.

The final minor change recommended Monday would fix a change voters approved in 1998 following a previous charter commission recommendation.

It allowed the city manager to present the budget to the mayor weeks ahead of when it was presented to the council, intending to give the mayor more power in shaping the budget.

But intentions went awry years later.

After Mayor Mark Funkhouser took office, Kansas City Star Reporter Lynn Horsley successfully argued that the manager’s budget was an open record when it went to the mayor.

So the media and the city council now get the budget when Mayor Sly James does.

The change recommended Monday, which Commissioner Steve Glorioso called “the Lynn Horsley ordinance changes” would make it “the mayor’s budget” compiled with the manager. It would not have to be submitted to the council or media for weeks.

Glorioso, who was chief of staff for former mayor Kay Barnes, said that change would give the mayor more power, as was intended in 1998.

“When you get to propose the budget, you get a lot of say,” he said.

It would work with a major recommended change to allow the mayor alone to fire the city manager. Now the mayor cannot do that without the consent of six councilmembers.

Another big and controversial recommendation is that the council discuss having all 12 council members elected from within separate districts.

Supporters say that could help improve minority representation and reduce the power of big money in elections.

Opponents say it would further divide the city and discard a system that has worked well for 50 years.

The current system is 13 council members, which includes the mayor, six members elected from districts and six from members who live in districts but are elected city wide.

The third major change would move the city election dates from winter to an April primary and a June general election.

Among other recommended changes:

  • New charter language that would allow the mayor and council members to serve on governing bodies of other organizations.
  • Removing most city departments from the charter, with the exception of law, finance, human resources and parks. Other departments would exist by ordinance but could be more easily changed.
  • Put in the charter a requirement that the budget include a contingency fund of “not less than one or more than three percent of the estimated general revenue fund revenues.” That was removed from the charter previously but the city finance director said it should be put back in to help the city’s credit rating.

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