For those who’ve not voted early, the charter amendment election will be held on Tuesday, November 7. At issue are whether we should increase the number of consecutive terms a city council member may serve from 2 to 3, and whether we should reduce the size of the city council from 8 council members plus a mayor to 6 council members plus a mayor. In the past, I’ve argued we should increase the number of terms one can serve, but not reduce the size of the council. Mailings from each side of the campaign to amend the city charter offer additional perspectives which should inform the voting of those going to the polls this Tuesday.
Something called Citizens for Limited and Effective Government supports both amendments. Its postcard features a quote attributed to Ronald Reagan: “As government expands, liberty contracts.” But the card offers no explanation on how the proposed charter amendments it supports will either make government more “limited and effective,” or produce more liberty.
Nonetheless, it’s easy to see how Prop 2, increasing consecutive terms, can make government more limited, effective, and free. Passage of the amendment will increase the right of voters to elect whom they want to serve on the city council while preserving their right to vote for those whom they don’t want out of office. Moreover, the amendment will potentially give city council members more time to study and master the issues and thereby enable them to cast more intelligent votes. In other words, it will put our democratically elected lawmakers in greater control of the legislative and oversight practices of the city council.
But how can “Prop 1 Limiting Government” actually limit government, make it more effective, and preserve liberty by reducing the city council’s size? How can our local political system be made for free by reducing both the opportunity of voters to vote for city council members and the number of democratically elected city council members? The postcard doesn’t say.
Shedding more light on the matter is another postcard, sent out by a former city council member who opposes Prop 1 and says we should maintain the size of the city council as is. He notes that in 2018 the same proposition cutting council size won less than 40% of the vote in that year’s charter amendment election; over 60% of the voters rejected it in favor of retaining the city council’s current size. Although he did not explicitly say so, one could ask how democratic it is for the city council to reject the recently expressed will of the voters by trying to pass a proposition the voters so overwhelmingly rejected.
The anti-Prop 1 postcard’s writer also says, “With the growth of Stephenville and the rapid expansion of Tarleton State University, we need greater representation, not less!” This is certainly true. As the city grows we should have MORE democratically elected lawmakers to supervise both the city’s economic growth and its growing government. Moreover, we should have MORE opportunities for the representation of diverse segments of Stephenville society and the expression of diverse opinions and perspectives on the council. Cutting the number of council members will be counterproductive.
So, if you haven’t already voted, be sure to do so this Tuesday. Everyone who does vote will be voting to influence the power of the city government to do things with you, for you, and to you. So why shouldn’t you have a say as well?
And while you should vote for Prop 2 to expand the number of terms city council members can serve, to expand the right of voters to choose whom they want for the city council, and to expand the competence of city council members, you should vote AGAINST Prop 1 to cut the size of the city council. Granted, Prop 1 will limit the size of the council, but that doesn’t mean it will limit the scope of the government, the revenue the government collects in taxes and fees, or the number of people the government employs. It will limit the right of the voters to elect their council members, limit the ability of the council to supervise the government and limit the diversity of citizens represented and perspectives considered by the council. So for the last time, do what was done in 2018:
Vote NO on Prop 1.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton from 1987 until 2023. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.