San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

June 3rd, 2008
Tightened candidate residency requirement survives first council discussion

by BRAD ROLLINS
Managing Editor

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.

DOWNLOADS

» Proposed charter amendments[pdf]

RELATED IN THE MERCURY

» Residents of recently annexed neighborhoods would not qualify for mayor, council under proposed changes 05/22/08

» With scant public input, charter review commission finalizing its work 04/25/08

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5 thoughts on “Tightened candidate residency requirement survives first council discussion

  1. Residency should be based off of how long you have lived at your current address. It seems undemocratic that people can be annexed and thus considered to be living at a “new residence”. I hope someone fights this decision.

  2. I must be missing something. I am happily ignorant about some of the details of the inner workings of government, but it seems like anyone living in a recently annexed neighborhood, who happens to be on City Council (or mayor) should have to recuse themselves from any discussions of deannexation of that same neighborhood.

    If so, what is the point of the debate? Anyone in town, whether they have been here 50 years or were annexed last week, ought to be able to run for office.

    Clearly more went on. I have to admit that I had my own conflict of interest, which forced me to ignore the deannexation debacle whenever possible.

    Looking back, it is very strange to me that people elected from that neighborhood were allowed to participate in the discussions at all (maybe they weren’t). It also seems strange that Bill Taylor, who was one of the Council members that the folks in Willow Creek got elected, now says it is a bad idea to let people from recently annexed neighborhoods run for office.

    There are more details somewhere. It would be great to see them.

  3. It smells like a first step in an anticipated annexation bid. And some housekeeping to prevent what happened in the south San Marcos annexation. If the city wants to annex Country Estates (for example, not that I’ve heard anyone propose it) they need to come up with a very generous service plan, save some money for it and give the new citizens something for their money. Examples would be new roads, security lighting, sewer system available but not forced on anyone, fire substation and parks. It’s possible to create a voting district comprised of the area to be annexed. To disenfranchise a new citizen seems wrong to me. To imagine another protracted battle over de-annexation sends shivers down my spine.

  4. To clarify the proposed change to the Charter regarding council candidacy and the one year residency requirement— The intent is to require a one year residency for ALL council candidates. Currently, newly annexed residents may satisfy the residency requirement, to file for office, by combining their non-city residency with their new city residency -to equal one year. They will not have paid taxes for a full year like current city residents. This proposal makes it equitible for all residents within the city limits and has nothing to do with speculation of annexation.
    This charter change does not disenfranchise anyone. Any citizen who has lived in the corporate city limits, for one full year, would be eligible to put their name on the ballot.

  5. I don’t see how having paid taxes is a qualifier for participation in the political process. Some don’t vote, some only vote and some make the ultimate sacrifice and serve in office. Thank you Kathy for your service. To me, participation is more about affecting the future. If the city governemt handles an annexation appropriately they need not worry about the spectre of a cabal of de-annexation candidates taking over the process. By the way, I acknowledge that I have forfeited my right to complain because I never attended a single charter meeting. I imagine the amendment will carry and with very little downside.

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