That phrase, often associated with former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, is worth remembering.
While statewide and congressional races are certainly meaningful, local elections have a more immediate and direct impact on voters. Early voting concluded on Tuesday and election day is Saturday, May 5. City council seats and the chance to replace the outgoing mayors of Cedar Park and Leander are before voters, as are a total of 30 propositions — 22 for voters in Cedar Park and eight for voters in Leander.
While the ballot measures may not draw a lot of attention, we feel a few are worthy of your consideration.
In last week’s paper, we simplified the language on these propositions as much as we could. Here, we make some recommendations.
Cedar Park’s Proposition A would redirect a portion of the city’s sales tax revenues from economic development to help with stormwater drainage and road repairs. The measure seems strongly supported by local residents and business leaders, and we find it to be a worthwhile use of these funds. We’re certainly in support of putting as many resources into economic development as possible, but infrastructure needs have the potential to impact business and residential growth. We recommend voting FOR Proposition A.
Cedar Park’s Proposition B would establish a specific procedure for filling vacant city council seats, and in the process, void any procedural change that was approved by the council within 90 days before a vacancy occurred. We see this as potentially problematic and wondered why the measure was placed on the ballot.
City spokesperson Jenny Huerta was unable to give specific reasons, saying only that the citizen-based charter review committee recommended all the proposed changes and the council agreed to place them on the ballot.
Voiding any procedural change adopted in the last 90 days of a council member’s work on the council would potentially has the effect of undermine the work of a departing council member. Nullifying work done by a duly elected representative of the citizens seems a drastic measure that takes power away from someone voters put in office. For that reason, we recommend voting AGAINST Proposition B.
Cedar Park’s Proposition C would prohibit anyone appointed to fill a vacant seat from running in the next general or special election. This would open access to run for office to a broader group while minimizing the chance that any future group of council members could appoint a favored candidate to the office and see that person retain the seat through election, by virtue of obtaining a higher public profile from the appointment. For that reason, we recommend voting FOR Proposition C.
The language of Cedar Park’s Proposition D states that it would clarify existing language prohibiting city council from “interfering” in city administration in the appointment or removal of city staff, with the exception of the city manager or city attorney.
We see this measure as an unnecessary restriction on the elected city council, since the city manager already has power over most personnel matters. We can’t help but worry that, if such a measure was in place previously, the public may have been denied a voice and a forum for discussion of the issues involving some high-profile police investigations. While the city council has no power to directly impact personnel matters, we cannot in good conscience recommend voting for a measure that would strip the council’s ability to give citizens a voice at city council meetings and command influence in the public eye over such matters. We recommend a vote AGAINST Proposition D.
Cedar Park’s Proposition E would require a two-thirds vote of the city council before any member of the council could disclose any information the council deems as being protected by the city’s attorney-client privilege.
This proposition takes a direct shot at government transparency and would limit an elected representative of the public, who might be in the minority on an issue, from discussing that issue with the media or the public. History has taught us repeatedly that this type of prohibition is a bad idea. We recommend a vote AGAINST.
Cedar Park’s Proposition F would eliminate duplicate spending in the area of bond coverage. We recommend a vote FOR.
Proposition G would clarify that the city council has no power to direct the activities of the city secretary. We can’t help but wonder what incidents prompted this measure. This also seems to be aimed at the balance of power, but we see no reason the city secretary’s duties shouldn’t be clarified. We recommend a vote FOR.
Proposition H would officially add the fire department, and other departments, to be added to the city charter. We recommend a vote FOR.
Proposition K would require any serving member of the city council to immediately resign upon filing to run for any office other than city council. We see this as a good idea and recommend a vote FOR.
Proposition L would change the city secretary’s responsibility when it comes to initiative or referendum petitions, requiring only that the secretary certify whether a petition has the required number of signatures. We recommend a vote FOR.
Proposition M would require the city to adopt a comprehensive plan and match zoning to be in compliance with that plan. We recommend a vote FOR.
Cedar Park’s Propositions I, J, and N-V are all directed at eliminating redundancies and getting the city charter into compliance with state law. We recommend a vote FOR all of those.
Leander’s Proposition A would require the city council to get cost estimates and timeframes for implementing any revisions to the city’s comprehensive plan, and to review the plan annually to determine progress and accuracy of cost estimates. We see this as a good idea and recommend a vote FOR.
Leander’s Proposition B is aimed at ensuring that there is only ever one person serving on the city council by appointment. We recommend a vote FOR.
Proposition C would allow the city to use the same auditor for five years, up from the current three years. We recommend a vote AGAINST.
Proposition D would reduce the number of signatures required for initiative and referendum petitions. We see this as generally good and recommend a vote FOR.
Propositions E-H bring Leander’s city charter into compliance with state law. We recommend a vote FOR all of those.