Charter Amendments – What Will Be on the Nov. 8 Ballot?

On November 8, there will be a referendum on proposed Dallas City Charter changes. Our Charter is like our city’s constitution: it dictates how our city is governed and how the power is divided among the different branches of government.

The proposed Charter changes are set forth in 13 separate propositions on the ballot. Proposition 14 is a bond referendum on the homeless intake center. I’ve put together an explanation of the ballot initiatives below. I support these changes to our City Charter.

Stronger Mayor and Increased City Council Finance and Audit Oversight

  • Mayor hires City Manager and determines compensation (not Council)
  • Mayor or majority of Council fires the City Manager
  • City Manager and Mayor jointly prepare the city’s annual budget for Council’s approval
  • Increases Mayor’s salary from $60,000 to $120,000
  • Mayor approves City Manager’s appointment of the police chief and fire chief
  • Creates a finance, audit, and accountability committee (composed of at least five Council members); all members, the chair, and vice-chair are appointed by a majority of Council (excluding the Mayor)
  • Majority of Council (excluding the Mayor) hires, fires, and determines the compensation for a Council finance and budget oversight officer
  • Council’s finance and budget oversight officer must be a Dallas resident
  • Provides assistants to the Council’s finance and budget oversight officer, who are exempt from civil service
  • Majority of Council (excluding the Mayor) hires, fires, and determines compensation for city auditor
  • These changes take effect on the date of inauguration of the City Council members elected at the May 5, 2007 general election, pending voting rights pre-clearance by the United States Justice Department

Requirements for Key City Staff

  • The following must live in Dallas: City Manager, city attorney, city auditor, and city secretary
  • Majority of Council (instead of 2/3) may fire city attorney and the city secretary
  • City secretary may fire his or her assistants without City Council consent
  • Clarifies duties of the city auditor
  • Provides for the appointment, discharge, and duties of assistants to city auditor
  • Lets Council members select their professional and administrative assistants

Municipal Courts and Municipal Judges

  • Provides procedure to remove municipal judges prior to expiration of their terms
  • Corrects obsolete references to the municipal courts as "corporation courts"

Emergency Management and Continuity of Governance

  • Lets city adopt a disaster emergency preparedness ordinance and develop a comprehensive emergency management plan
  • Lets city attorney initiate court action to order an election to fill City Council vacancies in the event of the simultaneous death or disability of all City Council members

Disciplinary Actions, Appeals, Civil Service, and Other Personnel Matters

  • Eliminates provision allowing a police chief or fire chief, or an assistant above the rank of captain, to be restored to a prior held rank or a lower appointive rank upon being removed for unfitness
  • Clarifies the process for disciplining employees of the police and fire departments
  • Eliminates requirements that the City Manager, the city attorney, and department directors be given a public hearing before the City Council prior
    to being discharged
  • Exempts the city secretary’s office and the city auditor’s office from civil service
  • Clarifies that city employees in the unclassified civil service and city employees exempt from civil service do not have the right to appeal disciplinary actions
  • Requires a "reasonable person" standard be used in civil service trial board hearings and administrative law judge hearings
  • Provides that charter provisions and city personnel rules will prevail over any conflicting civil service rule

Elections and Campaign Contributions

  • Lets the city to adopt regulations for campaign contributions and expenditures for city elections
  • Requires publication (both before and after a City Council election) of all campaign contributions made to City Council candidates
  • Lets general elections be held on the first authorized election date after March 1 (instead of after February 1) of each odd-numbered year
  • General elections will be held in May (instead of April) of odd-numbered years if the state ceases to restrict election dates
  • Councilmembers elected at a general election will take office the first Monday following the 30th calendar day after the final canvass of the general election

City Boards and Commissions

  • Increases the civil service board from five to seven members
  • Civil Service Board member or adjunct member may be removed without written reasons or an opportunity to present a defense
  • City board and commission members will be appointed during September (instead of during August) of each odd numbered year and will serve a term not to exceed two years from October 1 (instead of from September 1) or until their successors are appointed and qualified
  • Advisory board and commission members may not hold over longer than nine months after the expiration of their terms or after the creation of vacancies in their positions
  • redistricting commissioners’ terms end when they complete the redistricting
  • City Council must appoint a charter review commission at least every 10 years to review the city charter and make a report to the City Council

City Treasurer and Financial Matters

  • Provides that moneys from the sale of lawfully authorized commercial paper notes are deemed to be in the city’s treasury
  • Makes the city’s chief financial officer the city treasurer
  • Clarifies that city money is deposited into the city treasury or city
    depository instead of with the city treasurer
  • Corrects obsolete references to director of revenue and taxation and the
    director of finance

Solid Waste Franchises

  • Allows city to grant franchises for solid waste hauling, solid waste pickup, solid waste recycling, and solid waste disposal
  • Exempts such franchises from rate regulation

Fire-Rescue Department

  • Renames the city’s fire department as the fire-rescue department
  • Gives members of the fire-rescue department police powers in rescue situations

Official City Newspaper

  • Eliminates requirement for an official city newspaper
  • Requires city notices to be published in newspapers of general circulation in the city (instead of the “official” newspaper)

Annexations and Disannexations

  • Clarifies the process for annexing and disannexing territory to and from the city

Gender Neutral Language and Correction of State Law Cites

  • Makes the charter gender-neutral
  • Corrects obsolete references to state law

Bond for Homeless Assistance Center

  • Authorizes City to issue $23.8M in bonds for the homeless intake assistance center