NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dallas' deadline to call a charter election is coming up. The council just delayed its vote until August

Sculptures adorn the fountain outside the Dallas City Hall Wednesday, Aug 16, 2023, in Dallas.
Yfat Yossifor
/
KERA
A city appointed commission spent months coming up with a recommendation of what to change with Dallas' charter. The city council delayed their discussion until early August. That's right before it has to call a November charter election.

Dallas voters may be asked to change the city's charter to give elected officials a pay raise — and change how long they're in office. After a months long charter review process, and before a weeks long break, the city council decided to table the discussion until early August.

If the city wants voters to cast ballots in November, it has to call the election by mid-August.

After starting to discuss an amendment to change term length during Wednesday’s meeting, some council members started to question whether it was productive to debate other issues during the meeting.

“I do think just this first amendment speaks to how much we have some things we can work through,” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam Bazaldua, who represents District 7, said during the meeting. “I think it would be good governance…for us to have that due diligence done.”

Bazaldua said it would be beneficial for members to use their July break to dive back into the charter recommendations — and to discuss the slate of amendments at an August 14 meeting.

“Theres a lot that can be done from now until August 14 for us to come back and this be [a] much better process,” Bazaldua said.

District 1 Council Member Chad West wanted to know why the entire charter package was being moved to August.

“Why would we not want to take on the operational and technical amendments today and be done with them,” West asked. “Especially if they’re not controversial?”

“It's because of good governance,” Bazaldua responded. “I think this would give us the opportunity…to get back in the room with any of the outstanding items that we have.”

Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins said that he agrees with delaying the discussion and vote.

“There's some items on the charter that we need to have some discussion among ourselves,” Atkins said. “This gives us a fresh start to look at it during the holidays.”

Some council members seemed interested in scheduling another briefing meeting to get more information about the amendments — and finalize what would ultimately be voted on in mid-August.

That would mean sitting as a “committee of the whole” to take straw votes on different amendments. But that has a different voting system than regular meetings. Council members only have to raise cards to indicate their support for an item — there is no “yes” or “no” vote.

“Really the raising of paddles that we saw in the briefing actually could produce a very different outcome than having this meeting at a required vote meeting, like we’re at today, correct?” District 12 Council Member Cara Mendelsohn asked.

City staff said straw vote results would be taken into account for an August 14 meeting when a final vote on amendments is supposed to happen. Mendelsohn said she would be bringing up every charter amendment during a “required vote” meeting — not a briefing.

“Some of you are actually asking to be paid over $100,000 and only be elected once every four years,” Mendelsohn said. “Everyone knew today was the day, its time to vote.”

Mendelsohn said she wasn’t in agreement with delaying the charter process any longer. She said city officials have other issues on the horizon that they will need to focus on.

“And I also will just say, I am highly suspect of a lot of work happening in July,” Mendelsohn added.

“I feel like we've worked on this enough, I feel like we had enough information to vote on what we had before us today,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said. “But I’m actually persuaded in real time by the interplay.”

Johnson said that because there were different citizen-led petitions to get charter amendments on the ballot — like a petition for more public safety funds and another to decriminalize low levels of marijuana in the city — he was willing to delay.

City staff will spend July certifying that each petition has enough valid signatures to make it on the November ballot.

Wednesday’s deadline to approve the charter amendments was set by the city.

“Staff recommended a timeline…that included a June 26th date for finalizing,” Jake Anderson, a manager in the office of government affairs, said.

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at ncollins@kera.org. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Nathan Collins is the Dallas Accountability Reporter for KERA. Collins joined the station after receiving his master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming a journalist, he was a professional musician.