Five city charter change questions go before Tulsa voters Aug. 25. All deserve approval.
Charter Amendment Proposition No. 1 removes references to a city primary election from the charter, a bit of cleanup work left by a previous charter change to move the city’s general election to August with a runoff in November if no candidate receives a majority vote. Charter use of the word “primary” is an outdated reference to the days of partisan city elections.
Charter Amendment Proposition No. 2 would remove five gender-specific references in the charter to jobs that aren’t gender-specific. Women now fill city jobs historically reserved for men. Thus, we have police officers and firefighters, not policemen and firemen. The change could avoid future legal confusion concerning whether charter language applies to both genders.
Charter Amendment Proposition No. 3 would allow the City Council to write an ordinance to provide causes and means for removing appointees to municipal boards and commissions. The charter doesn’t currently provide for a way to remove appointees, which puts them essentially above the law. We can imagine potential policy disputes that could result in removal showdowns, but the more likely scenario is absenteeism: An appointee who doesn’t show up and costs a board its quorum leaves the city unable to act. The city needs a means of removing appointees who merit removal.
Charter Amendment Proposition No. 4 gives the City Council approval over the mayor’s appointment of future city attorneys. It also makes explicit that the city attorney is a merit employee, meaning that person can only be removed for cause. The city attorney clearly has responsibilities to the council and needs its confidence. Council approval of city attorneys makes sense.
Charter Amendment Proposition No. 5 would make it clear that while city attorneys must consider the form and legality of pending ordinances and charter changes, they cannot prevent council or mayoral consideration of any proposals. That sort of conflict has arisen only once. The issue went to court, and a district judge sided with the council. The council needs the help of the city attorney, but that unelected person should not have what amounts to a veto.
The five proposals represent improvements to the city charter, and we endorse them all.