Public hearing on charter amendments tonight; thoughts on reforming recall


Tonight at the Tulsa City Council meeting at 6 p.m. you'll have the opportunity to voice your thoughts on the list of proposed amendments to the Tulsa City Charter. The initial working list is here (PDF format). From that list, items 3, 4, 8, 12, 14, and 17 are off the table -- that covers nonpartisan city elections, adding councilors at-large, making the City Attorney's office either elected by the public or jointly appointed by Mayor and Council, term limits, removing department heads from civil service protection, and changing to a council/city manager form of government.

Good news: One item that didn't make the cut at last week's meeting was reinstated for discussion this week -- requiring a councilor to live in the district he represents. This ought to be a no-brainer, and I think voters will be shocked to learn that this requirement isn't already in the Charter.

I was at Tuesday's committee meeting at which the proposed amendments were discussed. Regarding reform of the recall process, the council seemed to divide into three groups: (1) those who wanted the recall process completely removed, with the possibility of bringing it back at a later date after it had been thoroughly studied and reformed; (2) those who want to leave the recall provision in place, but reform it now; and (3) those who want to do nothing now.

I had the opportunity to speak and proposed a compromise between positions (1) and (2), for which Councilors Medlock and Christiansen expressed support. The Council could put two questions before the voters -- an outright repeal and an amendment of the existing process. If voters approved both questions, the repeal would supercede the amendment, which would be moot. Even if voters defeated the repeal, they might still approve the amendment, which would be preferable to leaving the current system in place, with all the ambiguities and problems unaddressed.

Reform of recall should address three aspects of the process:

(1) The number of signatures should be standard across all districts. Under the current process, the number of signatures is based on turnout in the last general election, which means it will be different depending on whether the previous general was a high turnout mayoral election or a lower turnout, council-only election. Under the current system, it isn't clear how many signatures are required if an official was elected without facing a general election opponent. We should standardize either on a percentage of registered voters or on a percentage of the number of votes cast in the previous regular mayoral general election.

(2) How the signatures are verified needs to be clarified, so we avoid the semantic games that were played in the recall of Councilors Mautino and Medlock. Make it clear that the signatures are to be compared to the signatures in the official voter registration records, regardless of whether the signatures are contained in books or on cards. The charter amendment could specify a particular standard for signature verification or could direct the Council to adopt a standard.

(3) If an official is removed from office by recall, there ought to be an election to replace him, regardless of the time remaining until the next election. Under the current system, the replacement would have been chosen by election or appointment, depending on when the vote was certified and the vacancy officially existed. Another approach to this problem would be to make one year before the next general election the last permissible date to hold a recall election.

More later on the other proposals.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 25, 2005 2:13 AM.

Dwight Twilley: "Better Watch Out" online was the previous entry in this blog.

Gas tax pushers mislead on highway deaths is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]