bloggin' all things brownsville

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Point of Order

Revised to further clarify my opinion instead of that of the committee majority. For a better understanding of what transpired, watch the video once posted at

There was a great discussion at today’s Charter Review Committee meeting that warrants mentioning here.

Under Article V, the Charter Review Committee discussed (among other sections, including Recall) the following:

Section 11. Duties of mayor. The mayor of the City shall be the presiding officer of the commission, except that in his absence a mayor pro-tempore may be chosen. He shall be entitled to vote and make motions and seconds as a member of the commission; sign all bonds; be the official head of the city, and exercise all powers and perform all duties imposed upon him by this Charter and by the Ordinances of the city. [Ord. No. 93-1270, Prop. 6, dated 11-16-1993]

Section 12. Meeting of the commission.All meetings of the City Commission shall be noticed and conducted as provided by applicable Texas law. Roberts Rules of Order may be the procedural guideline for the conduct and protocol of all city commission meetings if adopted by the commission unless if (sic) conflicts with city ordinances or the laws of Texas. [Ord. no. 2005-1440, Prop. #7, dated 08-10-2005 & Res. No. 2005-044, Prop. #7, dated 11-16-2005]

The City Commission majority did vote months ago to adopt Robert's Rules of Order as a “procedural guideline” as denoted in Article V, Section 12.

However, the Committee majority felt that ordinances do not supersede the City Charter. And, an obvious conflict exists between Sections 11 and 12.

Therefore, the Committee majority recommended that Section 12 be amended to reflect that Robert's Rules of Order may be adopted by the commission unless it conflicts with city ordinances, the law of Texas and the CITY CHARTER. This was also done not only to clarify the Mayor’s right to vote at meetings as denoted in Article V, Section 12, but to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions and/or votes, including the Mayor.

I’m sure this will ruffle a few feathers. Upon today’s discussion, it is my opinion that the Mayor is being disenfranchised.

Still, our recommendations are just that, recommendations. The City Commission may reject or revise them, and then, they go to the voters.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Article II. Section 2. of the Charter of the City of Brownsville states:

The City of Brownsville shall have the power to enact and enforce all ordinances necessary to protect health, life and property and to prevent and summarily abate and remove all nuisances, and to preserve and enforce the good government order and security of the city and its inhabitants, and to enact and enforce ordinances on any and all subjects, provided that no ordinance shall be enacted inconsistent with the provisions of this Charter or the General Laws or Constitution of the State of Texas.

So, while adding "and the City Charter" to Article V. Section 12 will help clarify and protect the rights granted by charter to the mayor, there is already sufficient language in the charter for the city attorney to act on. He doesn't have to wait for the election to bring this to the attention of the Commission.

Section 11 also conflicts with ROR's notion that the chair/mayor should be a neutral presiding officer. If he can make motions and seconds, as prescribed by this Charter, it seems reasonable to expect that he can take positions, or even take the lead, for or against an issue. I don't think being neutral is necessary to be fair in how meetings are conducted.

Of course, since the City Commission may amend the Committee's recommendations, or add their own, they may very well choose to recommend amending Article V. Section 11 to remove the rights granted to the mayor.

It wouldn't surprise me.

Patricia A.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ROR makes a distinction between a small and large assembled body. In a small body around a dozen members or less, some of the formalities are omitted. For example, the chair can make and second a motion to move things along. There are no specific limits on speeches or time for those speeches. With this in mind, the mayor is not disenfranchised.

The Charter section gives the mayor the ability to vote. Although it does not stipulate it, the mayor may be given this right to vote because of the tiebreaking or tie causing possibility. There is no specific statement that the mayor must vote every time. There may be some ambiguity.

The Charter committee may want to look further into the appointment of a mayor pro-tem. In reading "except that in his absence a mayor pro-tempore may be chosen," doesn't it say that the mayor pro-temp is not a permanent position? Additionally, it could be interpreted that the mayor does not choose, since he is absent or not present. Rather, it is the remaining body that chooses every time the mayor is absent. Just as what occurred at the Charter committee that chose Col. Ed Moore when the chair and vice-chair were absent.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no specific statement that the mayor must vote every time.

No, but as written in the Charter, the mayor should be able to vote at will, and not only under certain circumstances. I don't know whether he is or isn't disenfranchised, but as it stands, a measure of accountability that applies to the rest of the Commission doesn't apply to him.

When any of the other members of the Commission vote, we can either learn directly, or infer, something from the way they voted, even when they make the deliberate choice to abstain. We don't have that with the mayor.

I've noted before that we usually know where Ahumada stands because he just can't help but tell us, but a more disciplined politician with less than altruistic motives could get away with more because of this.

As far as making motions or speeches, the way the city attorney initially explained it, the mayor should abstain from discussion. Later, after continued chaos and after much prodding by the Commission, he clarified that the mayor could state his opinion before there was a motion on the table but should not participate in the discussion that followed. I remember one commissioner went as far as saying that the Commission was allowing him to participate in discussions.

I mean, regardless of what we may think of Ahumada, is this what we want the office of the mayor to be?

Patricia A.

Thursday, October 23, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have some problems wrapping my mind around the fact that as the highest elected official position in the city, the mayor is supposed to be in charge of running the city and, based on public comments, he is expected to solve everybody's problems and have a solution for every issue yet he seems basically powerless to do much more than preside over the city commission meetings. Granted, he does make his position on most issues known, but I feel he should also be allowed more input into the governing and voting process than he seems to have now. There is just something not quite right about this picture.

Friday, October 24, 2008  

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