Sugar Land City Council discusses proposed charter changes
By S. Barot
For The Star
The main proposed amendment is a change to the number of petition signatures required for recall petitions for a referendum.
Currently, the charter requires signatures required for a referendum is 30 percent of the number of voters who voted in the last election.
A proposed change would require 15 percent of ALL registered voters in the city, before the city would be legally required to consider it.
“Our recent referendum petition required 2,032 signatures,” said city activist Diana Miller. “This proposed change would require 7,086 signatures – and that’s more people than voted in the last election, so it would be much harder to petition.”
Miller, who was also instrumental in obtaining signatures to petition the Newland Communities Tract 5 Development, took to Facebook group “Sugar Land Votes” to voice her concerns. Her belief is that city officials are increasing the roadblocks to the public’s right to petition.
She also added that in the City of Houston, the amount of signatures needed for petitions is 10 percent of the number of voters who voted in the Mayoral Election. In most other cities, it is a percentage of the last election, not the entire registered voting population.
Despite delays from the Planning & Zoning Commission regarding the public hearing to consider the elimination of recent updates to the City’s Development Code and the addition of a provision limiting multi-family in planned development districts to no more than 200 units, Miller said her group plans to submit the petition.
The amendments were recommended by the 2013 Charter Commission, which according to City documents, was created from Resolution 13-45 to review the operations of city government to determine whether revisions in the Charter should be made.
Though not directly related to the general public, the proposed Interference with Administration section (2.10) is also baffling to her group. It states that “the city council and it’s members shall deal with city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the city manager solely through the city manager, and neither the council nor its members shall give orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately.”
In other words, the proposed change states that to communicate with city employees, council members must go through the city manager’s office. It is still unclear The Star why this particular change has been proposed.
“I don’t know why they feel the need to change that, or what is driving that change,” Miller said. “It concerns me.”
Another agenda item is the approval of the release of 214 acres of the City’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) upon the property’s acceptance to Richmond’s ETJ. The property is o the south of FM 2759 and west of Crabb River Road. According to city documents, staff recognized that it is difficult to plan for land uses on the ETJ properties south of FM 2759, because properties have unusual shapes and sizes. A number of property owners in the area have expressed interest in being part of Richmond’s ETJ.
City Spokesman Doug Adolph said the charter commission made eight recommendations. In October, City Council suggested moving forward with the following six.
• Changing council terms from two years to three years
• City council members will communicate through the city manager’s office rather than directly to employees regarding day to day operations of the city
• Equalizing the petition signature requirements to 15 percent as well as basing percentage on registered voters for all categories for consistency
• Updating the severability clause
• Clarifying definitions of council member(s) and city council
• Clarifying that city council has power to regulate all city owned property