Home Converse Converse gears up for charter, annexation elections

Converse gears up for charter, annexation elections

Proposed amendments spark debate

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The areas shaded blue show the Dover/Meadowbrook and the Parc at Escondido/Weichold areas where residents will vote May 1 whether to be annexed by Converse. Courtesy map/Converse

CONVERSE — Though City Council elections occurred last November, voters May 1 will next weigh in on three proposed City Charter amendments and two annexation proposals.

The council voted Jan. 5 to order the special charter amendment election and on Jan. 19 approved putting the dual annexation votes on the ballot.

Regarding the amendments, one calls for expanding lengths of public office from two years to three. If approved, the extended term becomes effective after the November 2021 council races.

A second requires any sitting council member to resign upon announcing a candidacy for an election other than his or her current post.

The third measure mandates anyone removed by a vote of the council must wait at least three years before running again.

Councilwomen Shawn Russell and Nancy Droneburg sponsored each, saying many residents see these propositions as ensuring better City Hall representation.

Russell said the term extension gives officeholders time to acclimate to their duties and become familiar with the workings of city government.

“I know when I came on as a new council member, it took me about a year to get oriented and learn the ropes,” she said. “It takes a while. By year three, I feel like I have a better grasp of things than I did two years ago.”

Droneburg said 12 more months provides an elected leader with the tenure to oversee a city project.

“In year one, you may not be able to get it done. The second year, you’re thinking you have to run for reelection. Three years gives you a chance to fulfill some obligations you have to the city,” she added.

Councilwoman Kate Silvas opposed term extensions.

“If a two-year term is good enough for the U.S. House of Representatives, it should be good enough for Converse with a population and authority far less than that of a House member,” she said.

According to Silvas, none of the possible charter amendments underwent a comprehensive review.

As for the council seat-forfeiture measure, Droneburg said a sitting representative resigning to run for another office guarantees a clean break with the municipality.

Councilwoman Deborah James criticized the item’s language, adding it would cost the city money to hold an election on a proposal she thought unnecessary.

James and Councilman Richard Wendt joined Silvas with dissenting votes.

Concerning the three-year ban, Droneburg said some residents would have reservations about a former elected official seeking a return to office so soon after being ousted.

“I’m thinking (that if) I’m a citizen of this city, why would I want anyone with this past on the council?” Droneburg said.

James and Silvas, removed from public office in separate council votes during the past three years, were both brought back by the electorate.

Four council members approved putting the proposal before voters.

In a related matter, the council met Jan. 19 to call annexation elections for residents in two areas — Dover/Meadowbrook and the Parc at Escondido/Weichold.

In 2017, San Antonio agreed to release to Converse 3.6 square miles of territory through 2034.

Aside from adding those San Antonio properties, Converse plans to bring The Glen and Camelot II neighborhoods into the fold.

In addition, the Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 6 in 2017 allows Texans in large counties to vote whether a city can annex their land.

Covering about 900 total acres, both areas are located south of Converse’s southern city limits.

If annexation is OK’d, Converse would start service Jan. 1, 2022. If voters say no, the city has to wait until next year to hold another election.

“If approved, it gives us ample time to deal with staffing,” City Manager Le Ann Piatt said. “It also gives us time to get our systems in place.”

The neighborhoods account for 2,900 current and future homes, with an estimated $1.8 million in property-tax revenue.

The city plans to staff the locales with 12 police officers, six firefighters, four code-compliance officers and two Public Works employees, plus allot about $250,000 in road repairs.

A 7 p.m. April 6 annexation public hearing is planned during the regular council meeting. April 1 is the voter-registration deadline; early voting is April 19-27.

eortiz@localcommunitynews.com

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