Mayor Rick Ford said this week that the charter would likely be put to a vote of the City Council at its Monday meeting and all members of the council — including newcomers Terron Bivins and Jay Mann — have been provided with a copy of the proposed new charter in anticipation of a January vote.
“It will be the same proposal as in the past,” Ford said. “It’ll have us go from a ‘strong-mayor’ charter to basically a hybrid between a ‘strong-council’ charter with a city administrator.”
A vote on changing the charter to one that would make the city’s governing power more equitable among the city’s elected officials has become a tradition in Temple. An attempt has been made to do so every year since 2005.
“The existing charter is old and outdated,” Ford said. “There are a lot of state laws that supersede some of the requirements of the old charter. It will bring us into the 21st century.”
During the 2005 General Assembly session the charter passed the House, but was stalled in the Senate by state Sen. Bill Hamrick, R-Carrollton, due to eminent domain issues that were then being debated at the state level. Every year since, local legislators have refused to consider the proposal because the decision wasn’t unanimous, with Councilman Larry Estvanko casting the lone dissenting vote. Estvanko was defeated in November by Bivins, who campaigned in favor of changing the charter.
“I want to change the city charter,” Bivins said during her campaign. “The mayor has too much power. There are five other elected officials to make some of the hard decisions that could influence the city. This will create a balance of power for decision-making affecting our town. This will also help keep the confidence among the citizens that decisions can be made without prejudice and anxiety.”
Mann, who will replace his father, longtime Councilman Larry Mann, is also a proponent of changing the city’s charter to one that would take away much of the mayor’s power.
“I think it’s something that absolutely will be talked about and voted on in January’s meeting,” Jay Mann said. “I’m all for a charter change that will bring a more even balance of power. There’s several different types of charters and we’re just looking to balance the power out a little more where we can have some longevity.”
The remaining council members have all voted in the past to change the charter and have made no indication that their collective views have changed.
“We’ve had conversations with all the council members, both incoming and outgoing, and I believe it will be unanimous this year,” Ford said.