bloggin' all things brownsville

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Charter Review Committee Cont. ...

Here's what Harlingen did in 2005 when it came to their Charter Review Committee. Perhaps the grammatical changes are a bit much, but this article demonstrates how important this committee is. The committee even had a form for folks to submit their suggestions.

A simple Google search of "charter review committee texas" yields many a Web site with cities posting agendas, minutes and Web sites for the committee itself.



Committee Completes Charter Review
By Matt Lynch
Valley Morning Star

Dec. 27--HARLINGEN -- A 13-member committee charged with revising the city's most important document has concluded its work and passed its recommendations to city commissioners for their approval.

The charter review committee presented commissioners with 926 grammatical and nearly a dozen substantive changes during a recent meeting.

The changes must be approved by the commission before being placed on the May 2006 ballot for voter approval, said interim assistant city manager Michelle Leftwich.

Committee Chairman and former Harlingen Mayor William Card said the review committee met 13 times to pore over the city's original charter.

"We've carefully deliberated each article of the charter," he said. "This is the first total change to the charter since 1927. Most of the changes are grammatical."

Leftwich said much of the work done by the committee was updating the document's language.

"We wanted to look at consistency throughout the document. We tried to use updated language. For example, when we found the phrase 'herein' we proposed a change to 'in this charter,'" she said.

Committee member Craig Vittitoe told commissioners one of the biggest proposed changes concerns the city auditor position.

"We felt a city auditor is necessary not only for accountability to the commission, but also to the public," he said.

Committee member Donna Bonner said that while the charter is perhaps one of the city's oldest documents, updating the governing language of the city was an important task.

"We have a beautiful colorful past in Harlingen, but we are a city of the future and a city of professionalism," she said. "We're doing business in a modern world and we felt it was best to use a modern vocabulary."

Leftwich also tried to allay fears that revising the city's charter would close a window that previously provided a glimpse into the city's past.

"An original copy of our charter will be available in the city library," she said. "This is an important document in the history of the city and we will not let history go unremembered."

Commissioners did not vote on the changes during Wednesday's meeting, but agreed to revisit the issue in early January.

Proposed changes:

The 13-member Charter Review Committee has proposed to the city commission the following changes to the city charter. Should commissioners approve the changes, the revisions will be placed on the May election ballot for final voter approval:

Article I: 16 grammatical changes, one updated statute reference

Article II: Five grammatical changes, two updated statute references

Article III: 15 grammatical changes

Article IV: 154 grammatical changes, two updated statute references, three substantive changes: Internal city auditor becomes recognized position, city attorney and internal city auditor hired and fired by city commission and city manager must be hired and fired by three affirmative votes of city commission

Article V: 114 grammatical changes

Article VI: 99 grammatical changes

Article VII: 29 grammatical changes and one substantive change: Charter becomes self-executing rather than requiring action to protect property ownership

Article VIII: 270 grammatical changes

Article IX: 24 grammatical changes, two substantive changes: Any personnel policy differences at Valley International Airport must be approved by city commission, any property acquisition or conveyance by VIA must be approved by commission

Article X: 109 grammatical changes, substantive changes regarding appointments to Harlingen WaterWorks System board, retail rates and contracts and personnel policy changes

Article XI: 88 grammatical changes

Article XII: 3 grammatical changes, one updated statute


Copyright (c) 2005, Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Charlie, it looks like Melissa wasn't so far off was she? Check it out dude. They even had a chairman. Looks like this committee knew the recommendations went to the commission for final approval but they didn't take their work lightly. Melissa's a sharp gal but I guess you guys did'nt expect that.

Saturday, August 16, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost drooled at the sight of other cities' professionalism. I know I shouldn't covet but there is so much of it lacking around here.

Well, Commissioners, you have your chance to prove us wrong. Let your actions on Tuesday reflect and fulfill the commitment to transparency that is so universally promised during campaigns.

Patricia A.

Sunday, August 17, 2008  
Blogger Kurgan said...


I have some faith in the review committee and refuse to allow the unofficial comments of one elected representative project onto the entire leadership cadre.

The charter is the charter and serious thought should be given to city wide referendums.

By lowering the criteria for signatures and adding some fiduciary oversight, you can have a real balance in the way things are done.

It is a risk; California is an example of how direct involvement has its drawbacks.

However, some of the statewide laws passed through referendum has damn well gotten the attention of more than one “comfortable” politician.

In an area where voter apathy was and is a major roadblock, direct involvement into the process may be the thing to kick this city out of its doldrums.


Sunday, August 17, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...


please rememebr what stated this entire discussion - Ben Medin putting on the agenda for Tuesday the basic idea of guidelines to follow -

Atkinson had nothing to do with this.

Now If I can just get invited to a pizza dinner and show - this is going to be some meeting - remember they are also going back to the issue the Border Fence - mayor's request and there will be dicussion whether or not Cardenas should be allowed to put another trialer park in the city.

Emotions are going to be running high - it should be worth the entire price of admission

BObby WC

Sunday, August 17, 2008  
Blogger Mr. Shrimp said...

Wow. Good find!!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008  
Blogger Melissa Zamora said...

please rememebr what stated this entire discussion - Ben Medin putting on the agenda for Tuesday the basic idea of guidelines to follow -

Atkinson had nothing to do with this.

Actually, Medina told me that it was the desire of the City Secretary, City Attorney and Commissioners to set the parameters. In fact, he told me it was the City Secretary who placed the item on the agenda, but I was surprised to see Medina's name next to it. Don't know if it really matters.

He said he also believed that the Commission wanted us to focus on the compensation issue, among other things.

Sunday, August 17, 2008  
Blogger Melissa Zamora said...

Thank you, Mr. Shrimp.

Sunday, August 17, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He said he also believed that the Commission wanted us to focus on the compensation issue

I wished he hadn't said that. I'm all for higher compensation, but the more the Commission shows an interest on this particular issue, the harder it will be to convince the public that an increase is a legitimate argument.

Patricia A.

Sunday, August 17, 2008  
Anonymous Laura said...

I hate to say it but this unnecessarily antagonistic coverage is not doing the Charter Review Committee any favors.

MZ you know I have the highest degree of respect for what you do-

Clearly Atkinson has thrown gasoline on the fire here by his unbelievably poor comments - but the credibility of the Charter Review Committee as a whole is damaged when its members go public and draw lines in the sand, implying the other members and Commissioners must choose sides. I've had calls from friends on the Charter Committee and frankly, they're embarrassed to be part of this negative, public, accusatory media spotlight before the Committee has even started meeting, bridges burned at the City before they've even had a chance to work with the staff or Commission. No one wins.

just my 2 cents

I know you are trying to do the right thing and that you will all succeed brilliantly in the end. If I wasn't already attending the BISD meeting for Mittie Pullam at the same time tomorrow I'd go support you at City Hall. but good luck!

Monday, August 18, 2008  
Blogger Melissa Zamora said...


Thank you so much for your comment. I will do my part to defray the negative publicity our committee is receiving. I was very optimistic after our first meeting and sent a follow-up e-mail to the committee and city staff stating I looked forward to working with everyone. Within that e-mail, I had those basic agenda item suggestions. The items received support from other committee members, but I received no response from city staff. I followed-up with city staff a few days later leaving a lengthy message, and still no response.

When the initial Herald article on the charter committee reviewing the previously failed amendments appeared, I called the reporter to assure her that Goza said we could in fact review all aspects of the charter. I did not want the community to feel that our committee already had an agenda, and I wanted it to be clear that we hadn't had an opportunity to really discuss the charter.

It was a surprise to see Tuesday's agenda item. When I called Ben Medina, the information he provided me contradicted with information provided at the meeting. And, I felt that the committee should have been provided a courtesy notification that this item would be on the agenda.

I received calls from other committee members who are equally disillusioned at how this has evolved and the lack of communication.

I apologize if folks feel this issue has escalated. I by no means desire lines to be drawn in the sand, but I won't apologize for advocating that the fundamentals of fair, open government are met.

Many of us are eager to roll up our sleeves and get started on this committee. It is an honor for us to work on a document this city's forefathers created.

If you have time, please call me.

Monday, August 18, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...

Laura, if anything your comments have convinced me that the Charter Review Committee was a con from the get go. This Charter belongs to the people - not you, not the commission, not Goza, not Medina.

We the people as the owners of the Charter have the right to know what you are thinking - you serve us - we do not serve you.

This public disclosure of how things are being run by Goza and Medina will only empower the people to get even more involved.

I will always question who someone serves when they argue disputes related to public matters should be kept quite -

I am convinced if we can keep this in the news, with all of the disputes and all made public, the people's interests will be met - the people's interests have never been met behind closed doors.

BObby WC

Monday, August 18, 2008  
Anonymous Laura said...

Dear Bobby

Check the membership roster before you presume to know my motivations. I am not even on the Charter Review Committee. So, please don't imply that I feel "entitled" to secrecy or I'm advocating for "closed doors" or that I "serve you" in any capacity because I don't.

The committee members who contacted me did so as friends, and what they said really saddened me. They had volunteered for this committee simply out of a desire to help their community. They did not volunteer to be front and center in a political shitstorm of accusations and media dramatics. Greater tranparency = helpful. Political shitstorm = not helpful.

The current Committee has to be one of the most diverse and capable teams I've seen in a while. So it saddened me to hear that members would consider dropping out before the second meeting. Which is why I thought MZ would benefit from a heads-up before things escalated any further. She is someone I trust, and someone in the truly unique position of having a very popular blog and being on the committee at the same time.

The media is a precarious thing. I think sometimes people who are accustomed to being in the spotlight forget that others aren't used to it. You have to build up a tolerance to things like, for example, as Bobby just demonstrated for us: random strangers questioning my integrity and motivations without double-checking to see if I was even on the Committee at all.

MZ, sure I'll give you a call this week or we could go out for a drink later on if you'll be in Brownsville. You know I'm one of your biggest fans. Take care and hope to see you soon

Tuesday, August 19, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While looking through some search results on charter review committees, I realized that a very important parameter has already been set: time. No matter how far into the fall you push the deadline to be done with the review, it is still an inadequate timetable for thoroughly researching and discussing possible new provisions or changes to existing ones.

Mayor Ahumada mentioned the possiblity of creating a charter review committee since his first day in office. The Commission waited almost a year to make the appointments, and it took city staff almost four months after that to have the first meeting. Now, the City Secretary insists that the process has to be done by November, if not sooner, in order to have the ballots by the May elections.

Intentionally or otherwise, this process hasn't been handled well from the beginning.

Patricia A.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...

Laura, nice distraction from the issue - "keeping the attempts to keep the commission members under control"

Based on your words a reasonable person could have concluded you were a member - the fact you are not does not change the fact you oppose the open airing of this debate.

Let's look at the history:

1st meeting illegal; over a year and a half for the city staff to get the matter going; according to Medina, after first illegal meeting commissions asked that he set guidelines; without consulting committee members in advance medina puts on city agenda a need to discuss guidelines; charlie atkinson tongue lashes MZ for posting this issue as newsworth - which for the record I had already posted so she did not let anything out of the bag anyway;

and according to you Laura - the people who own this Charter should not be allowed to see what is going on - the people who will be charged to decide if the changes being proposed have merit.

This is all relevant to whether or not I will trust this Committee and CIty COmmission - and right now - with the exception of MZ I trust no one - MZ added credibility to the transparency of this committee - your comments only tend to add to how jaded people feel about the process.

If they go secret I will end up working very hard against the committee and proposed changes -

Laura, without the people - this committees' recommendations are going no where.

So I was wrong, based on your tone, to assume you are a member of the Committee - so what - my mistakte does not take away from my concern - your support for no public discussion about the problems on the committee.

Bobby WC

Tuesday, August 19, 2008  
Anonymous Laura said...

There you go again. Slow down, breathe deeply, now actually read my response before you react to it. I can hear you hyperventilating all the way over here!

I know you mean well, but you've got to check the facts before you accuse people. Its your own credibility that's at stake.

Keep fighting the good fight Bobby

Tuesday, August 19, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...


your words:

"but the credibility of the Charter Review Committee as a whole is damaged when its members go public and draw lines in the sand, implying the other members and Commissioners must choose sides"

This fight went public and the City COmmission was forced to squirm -

These type fights must always go public - this is how the people win.

I cannot help your words Laura. Because of this very nasty public debate the COmmissioners were forced to pretend they had no idea what Ben Medina was saying when he told Melissa the Agenda item came from the Commission.

The people clearly won because of this very public discussion - we own the government - we have a right to know everything every elected official is thinking.

Bobby WC

Wednesday, August 20, 2008  
Blogger BobbyWC said...

Laura Medina's words:

"Medina explained that it was the decision of the City Secretary, City Attorney and Commissioners to place the item on the agenda so to provide our committee with "some direction" and to let us know what "their expectations" are."

Jim Goza at the meeting last night stated the Committee wanted the itam on the Agenda.

Now let's go to your argument:

Exactly how is the COmmittee hurt by all of this public discussion. It seems to me the majority of the Commission last night supported Melissa's ideas which will make the Committee stronger and more independent.

So again - how were they hurt by all of this?

Bobby WC

Wednesday, August 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with MZ and Bobby. We need major input by the committee and public. I believe in transparency and open government. It should be posted and the public should be allowed to attend. The mayor and commissioners should respect their decisions and honor the majority. Keep up the good work on the Charter….

Thursday, August 21, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This last "anonymous" comment was sent to Bobby Wightman-Cervantes by Otis Powers for Bobby's blog, not Blogginallthings, specifically regarding an individual provision on the Charter. Not this conversation.
Why the deception? Re-writing and anonymously posting someone else's comment out of context? I thought you believed in transparency Bobby.
Sloppy. Very sloppy.

Now I support Melissa 100% and want to hear all sides. Dishonesty like this, not so much.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008  
Blogger Melissa Zamora said...

Ok, I'm lost. What's going on?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008  
Blogger The Merovingian said...

I know what is going on. The 'who' might be up for grabs, though. It is extremely lame, though, to anon in when you have a 'name' so to speak, especially when exposing chicanery.


Saturday, August 30, 2008  

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