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This year’s November 4 General and City Election will provide citizens with several options to amend the City Charter. Among those, Proposition 5 is included, which reads: “The amendment of Section 3.04 of the City Charter to provide that city council compensation shall be set in a public forum by ordinance of the city council.”San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz said citizens will have the opportunity to vote on the amendment this year, and added that she understands why the Charter Review Commission considered the change.
“Many people cannot serve, because they can’t afford to,” said Narvaiz. “And I believe that if we can expand the opportunity for an average citizen to step forward and lead us, then that’s a good thing. And if this does that, then to me, that’s the answer.”
City Councilmember John Thomaides said he is generally in support of the proposition, but he warned that ultimately it’s up to the citizens to decide. “I think there’s a trade off in small amounts of compensation,” said Thomaides. “That could encourage citizens who are not retired, are not independently wealthy, to get involved in policy and decision making in our community. I think it could be helpful in that manner, but I don’t foresee the position of city council member ever being a job where you’re going to earn a living from it.”
Narvaiz echoed Thomaides’ sentiment and said City Council will not become an avenue to provide for the household. “I am certainly not afraid of implementing something if I believe it’s going to open up opportunity for people to serve. But keep in mind this is not to replace somebody’s living,” said Narvaiz. She added that if the citizens chose to pass the proposition, it will then begin a public debate in City Council to decide if it will even be implemented. “There’s a public process,” said Narvaiz. “It won’t be hidden. It’ll be very much a public discussion about how we arrive at things that we arrive in the future.”
Although some residents are for the proposition, there are those who are not comfortable with it. President of the Council of Neighborhood Association Camille Phillips said she will vote against the proposition. She said she is not against providing compensation for Council members, but said there must be oversight in the process. “I think the citizens need to be in charge, not City Council,” said Phillips. She said City Council is not influenced by citizen input and went on to say that citizen comments are often neglected in their decisions. She cited the Concho Commons development as an example. “Public hearings are not a check on our City Council,” said Phillips. “They have demonstrated that over and over.” She proposed an alternative option and said the Charter Revision Commission should revisit the idea in two years but with different suggestions. Phillips said the language in a new proposal should not allow City Council to set their own compensation via an ordinance, and instead allocate that decision to a citizen commission or board, thus providing oversight.
“This is about the future of the city,” said Narvaiz. “This is something that I want to hear from the citizens on. If it doesn’t pass then we’ll continue to do what we do now. If it does pass then the Council will take it up in meetings following the election and it will be very public.”
Voters defeated a similar proposition in 2006. The language of the amendment included specific numbers for compensation, $100 per meeting not to exceed $300 a month.
by Andy Sevilla
News Section Editor
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