The issue of changing the single-member district government of Killeen brought two former mayors to testify in City Hall on Tuesday, during the last of four public hearings on proposed amendments to the city charter.
Former Mayor Timothy Hancock and former Mayor Raul Villaronga disagreed on whether the city should continue to have four single-member districts or whether all council members should be elected by citywide vote.
Although the issue is not on the council’s current ballot proposal, in the four months of council review and four public hearings this month, it has taken up more discussion than any other issue.
The council plans to find a consensus on a final ballot at its Tuesday workshop. It must approve a ballot by Feb. 12 for approval by the U.S Department of Justice for a May 11 election.
Of the two visiting mayors, Hancock most closely echoed current Mayor Dan Corbin’s outspoken opinion that placing the issue on the ballot gives voters the power to choose, not the council.
“Citizens deserve the right to vote,” Hancock said. “It’s not going to hurt to put it on the ballot.”
The ballot initiative has received much criticism, primarily from representatives of local minority groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the League of United Latin American Citizens, because it was thought to enable the disenfranchisement of minorities in the city.
Single-member district council members are thought to better address the issues of residents living in a specific area of the city.
Hancock, an African-American, said there is no one minority district in the city. “We do not have a district with a minority, just one broad population of mixed minority citizens,” Hancock said.
Villaronga is opposed to placing the initiative on the ballot. He said the local chapters of NAACP and LULAC, of which he is president, spent 12 years developing the plan to put single-member districts in place.
“We worked and we politicked because we wanted our representatives to be elected by the people who live in their district,” Villaronga said.“I want to be able to vote for the person that lives in my district, not someone on the other side of town.”
He also said that, at some point, the city should consider an all-district council.