A provision that would disqualify residents of recently annexed neighborhoods from running for mayor or city council received preliminary, informal approval from the city council at their regular meeting this evening.
Currently, candidates for city council must have lived in the city for at least a year before a city election or have had a “principal physical residence for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the person’s election, in any territory not formerly within the corporate limits of the city, but which is annexed.” A proposed amendment would strike out that portion of council candidate qualifications.
“We as a commission felt that all city council candidates should have the same residency requirements,” said Kathy Morris, a former mayor who chaired the charter review commission that recommended the amendment.
The charter review commission is appointed every two years by the city council to update the document and recommend changes. Then the city council decides which proposed amendments to put on the ballot for voter consideration in November.
In 2003, residents of Willow Creek and other recently annexed neighborhoods off Hunter Road southwest of the city elected two council members and former Mayor Bob Habingreither who then presided over the area’s deannexation. At some point before that annexation battle, the charter was amended “to allow those people who were newly annexed to run for city council without meeting the one year requirement. We felt it was more equitable that anyone who choses to run for city council should have to be a resident for one year,” Morris said.
Council member Kim Porterfield was the most forceful of council members in questioning the change, pointing out that residents of newly annexed areas begin paying city property taxes upon being taken into the city limits.
“I see the other side of the coin. I think the minute that people are annexed they should receive all rights as citizens afforded to everyone else. … Is this something you struggled with?” Porterfield asked Morris.
“I didn’t struggle with it,” Morris said and other commission members shook their head in agreement.
Porterfield said she such an amendment would send the signal, perhaps unnecessarily, that the city is preparing to again attempt to annex the Willow Creek area. She said, “We need to have a conversation about our future [annexation] plans so it doesn’t seem like we’re presenting this to keep people who live in areas that may be annexed in the future from participating in our city government.
Mayor Susan Narvaiz, who as a council member sponsored the deannexation motion that was approved unanimously, said, “I’m OK with this change having lived through the issue.” Council member John Thomaides, also on the council during the Willow Creek deannexation ruckus, said, “It definitely gives me pause because of what we went through in 2002 and 2003” before saying he was fine with the amendment unless “convinced otherwise.”
The candidate residency requirement was one of 23 proposed amendments recommended to the council by the charter review commission but the issue by far garnered the most discussion. The council did not vote on any of the provisions but did not pull any from consideration. The council must decided by sometime in August which amendments to put on the November ballot.
In addition to Morris, the commission is composed of vice chair Arthur Taylor, Scott Cook, Bucky Couch, Sam McCabe, Sam Montoya and Bill Taylor.
» Proposed charter amendments[pdf]
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