City Council will meet tomorrow, Tuesday, November 17, at 2:30pm. The council agenda is here. Included on the agenda is a public hearing on charter changes, which have to be approved by the General Assembly. You can read the proposed changes in this pdf.
Of particular concern to me is the change in sections 32 and 35, which increases the minimum number of signatures required for petition from 4,000 to 8,000. This unfairly raises the bar on citizen input. One of the largest petition drives ever undertaken by the citizens was that relating to Bay Oaks Park. That petition garnered 5,376 signatures. More recently, the residents of Highland Park undertook a similar petition, gathering over 5,000 signatures.
I urge any who can attend tomorrow afternoon’s council meeting to do so and to urge council to reject this attempt to silence Norfolk voters.
If you cannot make the meeting, call, fax or email your council representatives. Their contact information is here. We need to stop this before it goes to Richmond for approval.
Other changes to the charter being proposed:
- Allowing a salary supplement for the Director of Public Health. That we continue to add more people to the city payroll at a time when the city is stressed financially makes little sense to me.
- Removal of the recall process. The entire section related to recall of members of council (as well as references to it) are being removed. The Virginia Code § 24.2-230 et seq, and § 24.2-233 in particular, will be controlling. Interesting that the charter section being removed had a requirement of a minimum of 300 signatures on the recall petition while the Code has no minimum. Also interesting is that no reason was required for the recall under the charter but the Code has specific requirements (neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties).
One more interesting tidbit: I didn’t see the announcement in the newspaper and it’s not included in the pdf, where it was supposed to be attached as Exhibit B. But if the description of the charter changes were as per the agenda, I doubt if anyone would have known the contents, anyway. Perhaps the General Assembly could make the requirement that public notices be in plain language.
UPDATE: Brian over at Bearing Drift points out that requiring 8,000 signatures is almost as many votes as were cast in the last municipal election. Bryan at Left of the Hill points out that only 10,000 signatures are required for statewide candidates for office!