Robinson Mayor Bert Echterling said recently it might be time to review the city’s charter and bring it up to speed for a city that has grown in population by almost 34 percent in the past 16 years.
The city was incorporated in 1955, after formally being known as Robinsonville, and the Home Rule charter was adopted in 1999.
Amending the charter is a costly and lengthy process, City Secretary Jana Lewellen said, and it’s unlikely the city could complete a proper review of the documents prior to the deadline for the November election.
Pushing an election back on charter amendments would give the city a good year to review the data and create suggestions, she said.
Lewellen said amendments to the charter could alter the city’s form of government, creating one better aligned with residents’ preferences, including moving from at-large council seats to districts.
A charter amendment also could restrict or increase options available to leaders, clarify ambiguity or confusion in language, redistribute power among elected officials, and more.
No matter the direction council members decide to take, the last say on changes belongs to residents.
“It’s always going to go to the citizens for an election,” Lewellen said of a charter change.
A charter-amendment election can be scheduled by the council or petitioned by residents, she said.
There were about 7,500 registered voters in Robinson during the last election, so residents would need about 360 signatures to force a charter-amendment election, she said.
Lewellen told the council that such elections are costly because of the required notices prior to the vote.
“You want to review it thoroughly and make all changes at one time,” she said.
Councilman Jimmy Rogers said he wants to ensure there is plenty of opportunity for residents to give input on any potential changes.
Lewellen said a charter-review commission typically has 15 people and features a few council members, city staff and residents.
The city of Hewitt in 2014 was set to have a charter election to enact term limits for the city council.
The vote was scheduled to happen during a city council election, but it was later canceled because none of the incumbents drew a challenger, eliminating the need for an election.
The city of Woodway passed 15 proposals in a charter election in May 2012.
Mike Dixon, a Waco attorney who represents Robinson in addition to other entities, said he worked with the city of Woodway to help it revise its charter, which hadn’t been touched in 40 years. Dixon said changes often involve updating laws or including rules that were originally not included.
Dixon said before a charter-review commission is established, it’s helpful if the council takes the time to review any larger changes it may want to make.
The council plans to move forward with work sessions to discuss its charter before creating its review commission.