by Walker County News Today staff
Late Wednesday afternoon was the second meeting of Huntsville’s Charter Review Committee. In attendance were Committee Chairman Keith Olson and Committee Members Clyde Loll, Jane Monday and Dalene Zender. City Secretary Lee Woodward provided staff support and Mayor Andy Brauninger was a guest speaker.
In the first item of business, the committee members discussed at length how to best accept and receive public input by residents of the city. All members, as well as the Mayor, expressed the importance of providing open access to the public of the charter review process. After considerable discussion, the Committee agreed that it would accept inputs directly from members of the public at its meetings provided the members either advised the City Secretary of name and subject in advance of the meeting or received recognition from the Chairman at the meeting. Chairman Olson said that, in general, he would like for the committee to operate in as informal an environment as possible consistent with getting its work done in a timely manner.
Mayor Andy Brauninger then addressed the committee, listing three items in the charter that he requested be reviewed. Brauninger said that he was bringing these items to the committee after hearing local residents express concern. The mayor’s requests included:
- Term limits – Brauninger says that the current city charter has caused some confusion with regard to term limits, especially when considering that the mayor is also considered to be a current council member in the charter. The current charter stipulates that no one may serve more than four consecutive terms on council. The confusion comes in when a current council member runs for mayor: the charter isn’t clear that someone elected as mayor could serve an additional four terms if elected to do so.
- Ward Representation – Brauninger said that a number of citizens have expressed concern about the way the current ward and at-large council positions are elected. He asked the committee to consider whether there are too many at-large council positions, offering that the committee may consider options such as changing all of the at-large seats to ward seats thereby giving each ward within the city two representatives on council. Brauninger specifically mentioned what some consider to be over-representation on council by residents of the Elkins Lake subdivision.
- Compensation for Council members – The Mayor expressed concern about the time commitment required of everyone on city council which includes not only the twice-monthly city council meetings, but also includes numerous special meetings and workshops, committee meetings and public appearances. He asked that the committee at least consider offering something more than the current $10 per regular meeting council members are paid now. Brauniger said he brought this before the committee because he wants to attract the best talent possible to city council.
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for December 6th at 4:00 PM at Huntsville City Hall