In June I revealed (below) that the Ad Hoc Charter Advisory Committee is dominated by oligarchy surrogates whose aim is to curb the power of the Mayor and reduce citizen representation in our municipal government.
Yesterday, the matter came before City Council under Agenda item 6. Our City reps voted on each of the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Charter Advisory Committee to revise our City Charter, one at a time.
I cannot express in words how frustrating it was to watch the meeting on video. The reps were all over the place, voting and re-voting and talking in endless circles while the City Clerk struggled in vain to keep the discussion orderly.
Among their decisions, they voted to (1) deprive our Mayor of his veto power and tie-breaking authority, and (2) make it far more difficult for citizens to petition the City to adopt an ordinance through Article III, Section 3.11 of the City Charter.
Every El Pasoan should be outraged!
DEPRIVING THE MAYOR OF HIS EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY
As I have stated previously, the veto has been a fixture of constitutional systems since 509 BC, when the Romans established the world’s first republic. You do not eliminate the veto from a City government. It is something that you just do not do, and no explanation should be required! And depriving the Mayor of his authority to break ties is almost as absurd.
After two failed attempts by Rep. Annello to break the proposed ballot language into two separate propositions, the item went to a vote and passed 5-2 with Reps. Annello and Molinar dissenting. Rep. Lizarraga was not present.
REDUCING THE FREEDOM OF EL PASOANS
If that were not terrible enough, the City also voted to make it very hard for El Pasoans to pass their own ordinances by petition.
Until now, El Paso voters who wanted to pass their own ordinance had to obtain two separate sets of signatures in order to bypass City Council and place their ordinance on the ballot. Now only one set of signatures will be required and petitioners will have 180 days to gather signatures rather than 90.
But here is the catch. The amendment states that “no ordinance may be initiated through this process regarding required appropriation and allocation of City funds, zoning or rezoning, levy of taxes, setting utility rates, purchase or sale of an interest in real property or granting a franchise.”
As City Clerk Laura Prine emphasized, these restrictions go far beyond any imposed by State law, especially the part about “appropriation and allocation of City funds.”
In other words, El Pasoans cannot challenge any City policy through the petition process if City money is involved!
That will effectively slam the door in the face of any El Pasoan who wants to challenge a City policy, because public money is almost always involved.
Rep. Svarzbein asked Rep. Hernandez point blank why she thought this language was even necessary, to which she responded “It’s a matter of policy in my opinion.” Her explanation was totally irrational, to the point of gibberish.
Rep. Rodriguez’s meanderings were just as hard to follow, as she tried to convince herself in a very public way that the amendment would empower citizens rather than weaken them. Clearly she does not understand.
In the end, the City Council vote 4-3 to adopt the amendment, with Reps. Svarzbein, Annello and Molinar dissenting.
Before the vote, Sbarzbein gave at least three speeches on the need to preserve the freedom of the citizens, just minutes after voting to sharply reduce the Mayor’s authority!
FINAL VOTE SCHEDULED FOR AUGUST 16
On August 16, the City Council will vote on the final ordinance language that will be presented to the voters in November. The voters will have the opportunity to shoot down these tyrannical amendments to the City Charter.
As far as I know, Aaron Montes of KTEP is the only journalist who has bothered to report on this so far. It is incumbent upon the other major media to cover this extensively and make sure everybody understands it. When our freedoms are at stake, the media have a sacred duty to step in and exercise their First Amendment rights so that the citizens can make informed choices at the ballot box.
As for the reps who support these amendments, I say to you what Christopher Gadsden declared in 1775 during the American Revolution, “Don’t Tread on Me!”