Canadian County voters to help decide OKC charter changes

Nine propositions on Nov. 3 general election ballot

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By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer

While most everyone knows the presidential race heads the Tuesday, Nov. 3 general election, many Canadian County voters may not be keenly aware of another important item that will appear on their ballots.

“Of the 86,000 registered voters we have, about 42,000 of them reside in the Oklahoma City limits,” Canadian County Election Board Secretary Wanda Armold said.

Armold said that to say this – The City of Oklahoma City is having a special election with nine charter change questions on Nov. 3.

“I think many people will not be aware of that until they are handed the ballot at the polling place,” Armold surmised. “Those voters will get a 17-inch general election ballot and a 17-inch Oklahoma City ballot, which is a lot to read in the voting booth.”

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt appointed a Charter Review Committee that met from February through June, which formally recommended the nine proposed amendments after considering a wide range of issues.

Committee members were: Ward 8 Council Member Mark K. Stonecipher (co-chair), Sharon Voorhees (co-chair), Leslie Batchelor, Miriam Campos, Ward 2 Council Member James Cooper, Stan Evans, and Rachel Pappy.

Early voting for Oklahoma City’s special election is offered from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 29-30 and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 31 at the Canadian County Election Board, 200 S Bickford in El Reno.

Regular voting will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at polling places.

For more information, call the Canadian County Election Board at (405) 422-2422.

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THE NINE PROPOSITIONS

Here is a summary of the proposed charter amendments that Oklahoma City voters will decide in November’s general election.

Proposition 1: This amendment would make minor changes regarding elections for Mayor and Council:
* The name of the February “primary” election would become the “general” election, and April’s “general” election would become the “runoff” election.

Council members and the Mayor would take office four weeks after the “runoff” (currently “general”) election, instead of one week.
* Requirements for election notices and candidacy declarations would be changed to comply with current state law, which already supersedes the charter’s outdated language.

Proposition 2: This amendment would affect qualifications to run for Mayor or a City Council seat:
* The description of the requirements will be reformatted to make it easier to read.
* Candidates would be required to live in Oklahoma City for at least one year before filing for office.

The charter now requires at least three years of residency, which federal courts have ruled is too long and unreasonably restricts the right to run for office. For years, City elections have therefore relied on a state law to set the residency requirement at six months. This amendment would set a new Charter requirement of one year, which is compatible with state law and is frequently upheld in federal court.
* Candidates would be required to be a registered voter in Oklahoma City for the year immediately preceding a formal declaration of candidacy.
* Candidates for Council seats would also be required to be registered to vote in the Ward in which they are running for at least one year before a formal declaration of candidacy.

Proposition 3: This would extend the time period from 15 days to 30 days to call a special election, or to appoint a temporary Mayor, if the office is vacant. It makes the time period consistent with the same requirement for vacant Council seats. Appointment of a temporary Mayor can only occur if the vacancy is in the last year of the term.

Proposition 4: This would amend an outdated requirement for Council meetings to match the current practice of setting meeting schedules by ordinance. The Council now meets every other Tuesday.

Proposition 5: This would allow the Mayor or a Council member to provide information to the City Manager about a City employee’s job performance.

The information would be required to be based on direct personal knowledge, or a signed, written statement from a resident.

The charter prohibits the Mayor or Council members from giving orders to City Manager subordinates, and from directing or requesting appointment or removal of a City employee.
The narrow-proposed change would explicitly provide a way for the Mayor and Council members to provide positive or negative feedback without violating the Charter.

Proposition 6: This would clarify who is in the City’s Division of Public Affairs, which is under the direct control of the City Council.

It would include the City Manager, Municipal Counselor, City Auditor, Municipal Court judges, and all City boards, commissions and committees created by the Mayor and Council.

Proposition 7: This would change the term “Councilman” to “Council member” or “Councilor” where the charter refers to Council representatives.

Proposition 8: This would amend the section of the charter granting powers to the City government and reformat it into five subsections for easier reading. It would also add the word “welfare” to the list of powers for enacting and enforcing ordinances “to protect health, safety, welfare, life or property.”

Proposition 9: This would re-word a section heading and more clearly state its apparent, original intent to prevent improper transactions related to certain businesses, and City franchise agreements.

It would prevent City employees and officers from accepting things of value on terms unavailable to the general public from privately-owned transportation businesses and utilities.

It would allow for franchises and contracts to be conditioned upon free service for City employees and officers while engaged in official duties.