TC3 Partners Approve Five Charter Change Recommendations
Sixty Tucson Charter Changer Coalition (TC3) partners on May 20 reached consensus on five city charter changes the coalition plans to ask the mayor and council to refer to the voters on this November’s ballot. More >>>
Public Meeting Shows Strong Support for Structural Changes in Tucson City Government
Approximately 200 Tucsonans expressed strong support for improving the way Tucson city government is structured at a meeting April 30 of the Tucson Charter Change Coalition (TC3).
A survey completed by the participants revealed:
- 95 percent said it was either very important or important to eliminate civil service for department directors and their immediate reports as well as providing the city manager the authority to hire and fire all department heads, thereby making the manager and his team more accountable to the council.
- 94 percent said it was either very important or important to allow the mayor to vote on all issues that council members can vote on and to count as a quorum at meetings.
- 88 percent said it was either very important or important to make the mayor and city council positions full-time jobs with a livable wage paid to them out of existing resources.
- 36 percent said that it was either very important or important that authority be granted the city council to increase the number of wards as the city’s population increases.
In a test of two election changes the coalition members may also want to consider, the participants strongly supported having the mayor and council members run simultaneously every four years, and moving city elections to even-numbered years, when they would be combined with state and national elections.
The 200 participants, from diverse organizations and interests, met for three hours at the Tucson Convention Center. The highly advertised meeting was open to the public, free of charge.
Keynote presentations emphasizing the best practices in local government were given by two nationally recognized experts – John Nalbandian, a professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Kansas, and James Svara, a professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University and Director of the Center for Urban Innovation.
The participants asked questions of a panel consisting of the two experts and three local leaders – Lisa Lovallo, Jan Lesher and Steve Lynn – before breaking into small discussion groups and completing the participant and table survey forms. Harvard Professor Joe Kalt moderated the Q&A.
The next step: The coalition partners will meet next on May 20 to review the comments and survey results as they work to put proposed recommendations into final form. The recommendations then will be presented to the Tucson mayor and city council, with a request that the recommendations be referred to the November ballot. If the mayor and council agree, it will be necessary for coalition members to mount a vigorous campaign to win voter approval.
Participant Survey: Summary of Results
Question: In your opinion, how important is each of the four proposed charter changes? Please place the appropriate number in front of each recommendation:
4= Very Important. 3 = Important. 2 = Somewhat Important. 1 = Not Important.
Participants were asked to characterize the discussion at their tables and to provide feedback, general and recommendation-specific, to the TC3.
Recommendation 1: Provide greater accountability for the city manager and department heads
- Consent of the council for appointments may be appropriate
- With advice and consent of the mayor and council in regards to the hiring and firing of department heads.
- City manager should be able to hire and fire direct reports without council approval.
- City manager needs to be accountable, but also must have total authority of all administrative departments within the city. Council needs to stay within the boundaries of dealing with policy and direction.
- Concerns regarding the manager “cleaning house” and bringing in his own people. We can’t afford to lose long-term Tucsonans that may be department heads. We need continuity as we churn through city managers.
- Even broader changes to civil service to allow for reductions in staff or promotions based upon merit, not seniority.
- Have him investigate Charlotte, NC, procedure for handling constituent complaints so council members won’t routinely have to.
- Perhaps go one level further and make department sub-management accountable also.
- As long as there are not buyout clauses when the city manager is replaced.
Recommendation 2: Make the mayor and city council positions full time.
- It must be revenue neutral. (18 respondents want revenue or cost neutrality.)
- Reduce the number of aides. (15 respondents would ensure revenue neutrality by reducing the number of aides. Two respondents thought three aides per council member would be sufficient.)
- Return council members to a central location. (Seven respondents.)
- We need to define the salaries.
- Reduce number of aides by looking at Charlotte’s constituent/complaint response program.
- Put into effect only after next election (not a raise for current council).
- Improved online resources may be necessary to support reduction of staff, accessibility of expressing concerns, getting questions answered, etc.
- Possibly reduce the number of council members.
- Make sure this is in line with comparable cities.
- Their salaries should be minimal, with the provision of a substantial bonus each year if they present a balanced budget.
- There should be term limits.
- Mayor – yes, with pay increase to fully compensate him. Council – no, would limit the number of candidates to full-time politicians.
- Limit the number of council aides; aides have too much power.
- Will the full-time concept create “professional politicians” out of touch with the issues of the working public?
Recommendation 3: Provide for increasing the number of wards as population increases.
- Only if it is done in connection with annexation. (Nine respondents.)
- Handle large annexations, such as the Foothills, by redistricting, not adding wards. (Five respondents.)
- No escalator clause for population increases. (Five respondents.)
- Eight wards may be needed, now or long-term. (Three respondents.)
- An increase may be warranted, but it should be based on the best number for effective governance, not necessarily population.
- Why have wards?
- Nonpartisan and only ward.
- If council members are full-time, no.
- Look at comparable cities and growth rates to determine if this is necessary. How does Tucson’s 84,000 people per ward compare to other cities?
- Bring ward offices downtown.
- Adding wards diminishes the effectiveness/influence of the mayor.
- Bigger legislative bodies do not necessarily mean better vision for the community.
- Tie to both increased population and expanded boundaries. (annexation.)
- Move may be useful but be careful of splintering the council and thereby reducing flexibility and increasing stagnation.
- Get a test of voter opinion on this issue and drop if negative and will hurt other recommendations.
Recommendation 4: Create a stronger mayor—allow the mayor to vote on all issues.
- Concerns were expressed by at least six respondents about using the words “stronger” or “strong.” One recommended using “equalize” or “restore.”
- Four respondents stressed “parity” between mayor and council.
- Three respondents suggested changing the charter provision that requires a two-thirds vote of the council to remove the manger. Presumably, they prefer a simple majority vote.
- No one will vote for stronger government officials if the sound bite is “stronger mayor.”
- Allow mayor to count as quorum if less than a quorum is present to provide vote.
- Another no-brainer, but probably not strong enough. Good starting point for now, but doesn’t go far enough.
- Not sure about agenda control. Perhaps mayor’s agenda has priority.
- The city manager should report to the mayor.
- Move administrative functions to the mayor’s office.
Suggestions for other charter changes
- Does the charter need to be changed to promote city/county consolidation? If so, include it.
- Ward-only elections for the general election.
- Election by ward. NOT nonpartisan.
- Perhaps give mayor more authority over budget development and hiring of manager, with consent of council, of course.
Other comments or suggestions
- The needed change in communication strategy to allow the voting public to think about consequences objectively instead of along party or affinity relationships.
- Please provide the public with more info on how to work with the local city council, mayor and city government.
- Explain the metro government concept if possible.
- Perhaps there should be a statement of “what is the problem.” Is the system broken? It appears to function pretty well – some small changes might be needed.
- For some of us coming into the debate, which problems, exactly, are the prompt for these solutions, needs to be clarified.
- You must deal with definition of accountability to be clear regarding accountability to the electorate.
- Overall I thought the session was informative, but I was disappointed that at this point in the process more of the implications had not been thought through. Table discussions not necessary.
- Keep eye on rationale.
- All these recommendations seem reasonable, but this process seems to focus on solutions, not what are the problems/issues we need to address. As John Nalbandian said, “Don’t start the process with a solution.”
- Still few “regular” voters here. Our local workforce isn’t flexible enough to attend day-time meetings. Take this “show” to R&D legislative district meetings and hold meetings in every City of Tucson ward office.
- You should have recruited more grass roots to this event and youth. Example – college students, grad students, youth groups. … More outreach needs to take place in places where grassroots gather. Example: Dia de San Juan, El Rio Neighborhood Center, NW Neighborhood Center, YWCA-YMCA.
- You missed having an ethnically diverse panel – no minorities – no Hispanics, Native Americans or African-Americans. NOT ACCEPTABLE.
- Settle the court case on partisan vs. non-partisan and ward-only elections
- Please press ahead for non-partisan and ward-only general elections.
- In future, need to consider mayor-council model.
- Clear vision for city to ensure structure is aligned/expectations of all involved should flow directly from vision – will also help communicate to public for voting.
- Please allow the citizens to vote on each proposal separately rather than as a package.
- Do not create a model that will result in a government that mimics Pima County’s, where the top administrator has too much power and restricts critical information from elected officials.
- Don’t package civil service change with other less obvious recommendations.
- Came to learn and did. Don’t know what was missed.
- Will this be one issue on the ballot or will it be split into separate issues. If it is one up or down vote, it may fail because people will vote no if they like most of it, but find one part objectionable.
participant responses on two possible election charter changes
From Participant Survey on April 30, 2010
|Change the election cycle of the mayor and all council members to every four years (rather than having staggered elections every two years).
|Combine city elections with state and national elections in even-numbered years. (The idea is that this would increase voter turnout.)
- The election changes were presented as a test to see the extent of support they would have among the coalition members. Coalition members will decide whether to include them among the formal recommendations being forwarded to the mayor and city council.
- Ninety people turned in surveys. Fifty-six gave responses to these recommendations that could clearly be identified as “yes” or “no.”
- The second recommendation may have been biased favorably by the parenthetical comment that the idea was to increase voter turnout.
Input from March 26 meeting
Participants in the March 26 meeting were given two brief surveys. The first asked about the proposed charter changes; the second asked their willingness to be part of the coalition. The results are below.
Charter change recommendations (March 26, 2010)
The 103 participants were asked whether each of the four recommendations should be referred to the November ballot. These were gathered and tallied at each table after the table members discussed the recommendations. Of the 71 individual votes tallied:
Interest in participation in the coalition (March 26, 2010)
These were individual surveys in the packet of information given to every participant. 61 surveys were returned out of the 103 people at the meeting.
|Was today's meeting informative and worthwhile?
|Will you join us in this project and become a coalition partner?
|Will you attend the meeting on April 30?