The City of Tucson

The Tucson Charter Change Coalition (TC3)

Public hearings on recommended charter changes

The city’s appointed Charter Review Committee is recommending significant changes to the Tucson city charter – the document that is the city’s equivalent of a constitution. As such, it sets the roles and policies by which the city operates, including outlining the duties and responsibilities of elected and appointed officials.

The public is invited to attend public hearings on March 10 and March 12 to comment on or ask questions about the committee’s recommendations. The details of the hearings are:

After the public hearings, the committee will firm up its recommendations and send them to the mayor and council for their consideration and placement on the November ballot. No changes to the city charter can be made without voter approval.

Summary of recommendations

Following is a complete list of all the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations as of Feb. 19, 2015.

  1. Clean up charter language:
    1. Clean up the charter to be gender neutral, repair numbering, identify correct titles and departments (i.e. Transportation Director for Superintendent of Streets); modify enumerations of powers and duties that have changed or are likely to change over time; and remove conflicts with state law. The city staff is to provide revised language to the committee.
  2. Financing city government:
    1. Make the $1.75 cap on property taxes apply only to the primary property tax. (State law already limits secondary taxes to the amount necessary to pay off voter-approved bonds.)
    2. Eliminate the current charter’s prohibition on pledging excise (sales) taxes to guarantee city bonds. (City CFO Kelly Gottschalk estimated this coold save the city half a percent per year in interest payments.)
  3. Non-interference with city manager or department heads:
    1. Insert language into the charter from the city’s Code of Ethics Ordinance approved by Mayor and Council in 2013 relating to non‐interference.
    2. The language says the city manager and city employees shall recognize that they do not set policy, but make policy recommendations, and are responsible for carrying out the mayor and council’s policy decisions.
    3. For their part, the elected officials and their staff members shall:
      1. Recognize and respect the role of the city manager and city staff, and shall not interfere with the execution by the city manager of the manager’s powers and duties, or order, directly or indirectly, the appointment or removal by the city manager of any employee.
      2. Work solely through the city manager or the city manager’s designated staff. The mayor and council and their staffs may ask other city administrative officers and employees about the status of a matter and may ask for information, but they shall not expressly or implicitly give orders or direction to those employees, publicly or privately.
  4. Eliminate civil service for department heads:
    1. Exempt department directors (except for police and fire chiefs) from Civil Service protections so that the directors become “at will” employees. 
(Police and fire chiefs currently have only limited civil service protection. For them, Merit Commission recommendations are advisory only and not binding on the mayor and council. That woold not change.)
  5. Government transparency:
    1. Include the transparency goal adopted by the committee in a new preamble to the charter. (i.e., “The charter shall structure city government so that its actions are carried out through processes that are transparent, predictable and flexible with clarity about responsibility.”) 

  6. Strengthen the mayor’s role:
    1. The committee adopted conflicting recommendations on the mayor’s role that it will need to reconcile after the public hearings:
      1. At a minimum, strengthen the mayor’s role by granting the mayor a foll voice and vote on all matters before the city council and by permitting the mayor to count toward a quorum of the council. 

      2. In principle, the committee voted to give the mayor a veto over council decisions, but the council coold override the mayor’s veto. However, if the mayor has a veto, he woold not have a vote on issues before the council.
  7. Hiring and firing of department heads:
    1. The city manager, city clerk, city attorney, and magistrates will be appointed and removed by a majority vote of the city council (4 out of 6).
    2. The city manager will appoint all other department directors (including police and fire chiefs) with approval by a majority vote of the council (4 out of 6).
    3. The city manager will have the ability to fire all department heads without approval of the mayor or council.
  8. Ward-only elections:
    1. The committee favors ward-only elections, in which candidates for city council will run only in their wards in both the primary and general elections.
    2. Currently, candidates for council run only in their ward in the primary election, but run citywide in the general election.
  9. Arts funding:
    1. To allow the city to own and operate public arts and coltural facilities and to issue bonds for public arts and coltural purposes.
    2. The charter currently does not address the issue of funding for the arts.