The Killeen City Council will hold its final discussion Tuesday over the charter amendments it plans to put on the ballot for a May 10 election.
After nearly four months of talks and four public hearings about the document that outlines the city government’s foundation, it is still unclear which charter changes will appear on the ballot.
Mayor Dan Corbin, who does not vote but runs meetings, said he plans to let the seven council members vote on one issue at a time.
“Everybody understands the issues. There shouldn’t be much debate,” Corbin said.
“If it gets four votes, it goes on the ballot. If it doesn’t, then it won’t.”
The most controversial of the proposed amendments — to change from a council with four single-member districts to an all-citywide elected council — may not make it on the ballot.
The last time the council voted on the ballot initiative, in
October, single-member districts did not garner enough support to make the so called “red-line” copy of proposed changes.
Corbin, who did not attend the October meeting, has since argued that not putting the item on the ballot would be a mistake.
The mayor was on the council in 2005 when the city drew up plans for single-member districts and, although he supported maintaining an all at-large council, he argued to place the issue on the ballot anyway, he said.
“I have been consistent with this both in 2005 and now,” Corbin said. “Let the people decide. I think seven years is enough time to find out whether this experiment has worked or not.”
Former Killeen Mayor Raul Villaronga, now president of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said putting the item on the ballot would be “throwing progress into the trash can.”
“How many times would we need to have an election to decide an old issue?” Villaronga said.
Villaronga said he worked with many representatives of LULAC and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for nearly two decades to get single-member districts on the ballot in 2005.
Single-member districts were developed to ensure equal representation in city government for minorities.
Although the districts were thought to give minority neighborhoods a chance to elect a local representative of their minority, both mayors agree that principle does not apply in Killeen, where races are geographically dispersed.
“The city is fairly well integrated,” Villaronga said.
He said if people want the chance to vote to end single-member districts, they can start a petition to bring it into May’s election.
“We have the power of initiative. If there’s that many people who want single-member districts on the ballot, why don’t they get enough signatures to get it on the ballot?”
An initiative would require signatures from qualified voters numbering 25 percent of votes cast in the last regular municipal election, about 1,050 signatures.
Another problem Villaronga sees with placing the single-member district issue back on the ballot is that it would further complicate an already complicated ballot.
“Keep it simple,” Villaronga said. “It is too complicated. When the people are confused, they tend not to vote.”
Corbin previously said the city’s legal department can write propositions with conditional statements.
If the proposed proposition for an all at-large council passes, other propositions affected by the amendment can be written to change accordingly.
Many other issues face the council this week, including extending council term lengths from two to three years and changing the number of signatures for a council recall petition to a number based on total registered voters.
However, throughout the discussions for and against these proposals, Corbin has said the same thing: “Put it on the ballot. Let the people decide.”
Contact Brandon Janes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552