City OKs Charter Election For November 2012

POSTED: 03:01 AM MDT Sep 07, 2011    UPDATED: 10:20 AM MDT Jul 12, 2011 

The El Paso City Council on Monday voted unanimously to have a charter election in November 2012.

Even though the city is able to have a charter election this year, it decided to move it to next year. By state law, the city can only have an election to change the charter every two years.

The city will form a committee that will make and take recommendations on changes to the charter, as well as draft the language of the proposed charter changes.

City Rep. Susie Byrd has proposed an "anti-discrimination" charter amendment that prohibits the city from issuing any benefit based on ethnicity, sex, gender, age, marital status, etc. If approved by voters, the city could not deny health insurance to gay and unwed partners of city employees.

Other proposed changes to the city charter could include terms and term limits, if the option is recommended, then agreed upon by the committee.

Mayor John Cook said there are pros and cons to term limits but he has not made a recommendation to abolish them.

"I signed on to this job knowing there was term limits and I'm comfortable with that. If the citizens of El Paso want to remove term limits, then it'll be up to them through this process of the charter review committee, that would be their opportunity to do that," Cook said.

Cook said he has already made his recommendation for the charter review committee, and it's someone from the Chamber of Commerce, which is against getting rid of term limits.

The city decided to have the charter election on November 2012, when the city will be holding a bond election, to save taxpayer money, officials said. Plus, it gives officials time to educate the public on the issues. After the committee is formed, they will study the city charter and accept recommendations for amendments from city staff and elected officials. Over the next several weeks, city council will propose changes to the charter, that if accepted by the committee, will be decided by voters.