Voters accept Charter 673 to 234

Michael Bush, managing editor

September 11, 2013

Although it wasn’t a huge voter turnout, the special Altus Municipal Election held Tuesday for the proposed City Charter passed 673 to 234.

“It won’t be official until Friday,” said Election Board Secretary Jennifer Wilson, “but with that much of a margin, there won’t be a recount.” Wilson also said that she was surprised by the low voter turnout, especially for a City election. “It was definitely smaller than expected,” she said.

Representatives spent weeks putting together a charter for the citizens of Altus, held a town hall meeting on the matter, and welcomed any and all input. The proposed charter establishes our form of government as “Council-Manager” (as opposed to the current “Statutory Aldermanic”). The draft charter shifts the structure and power of our municipal government by removing the broad administrative powers of the Mayor’s office and assigning “CEO” responsibilities to a City Manager. City Council becomes more like a board of directors and has greatly reduced involvement in day-to-day administrative and operational matters. The mayor becomes a voting member of council and retains ceremonial and representation duties.

“The Charter is Chamber supported,” said Altus Chamber of Commerce President Holley Urbanski. “This is a good thing for our community,” she said.

Offices such as Police Chief, City Clerk/Treasurer and City Street Commissioner are to remain as elected positions. Qualifications for these offices are spelled out in the charter.

“We will just have to wait and see how the items on the charter unfold as the elected offices come up,” Urbanski added.

City Council salary has been removed and replaced with a monthly miscellaneous-expense payment of $200. (Other expenses are reimbursed as submitted and approved). Council and Mayor shall be subject to term limits. Basically, no one can serve more than 16 years total.

City Council shall be elected both “at-large” and “in-ward-only”. A hybrid election process will seat 4 council members by ward-only voting at every other election cycle, with the other cycle having council members elected at large. Each ward will continue to have 2 seats, one at-large, one in-ward.

A provision for amending or changing the City Charter is also spelled out. Basically, the charter cannot be changed without a vote of the people. (Council, Mayor, City Manager, etc… cannot change the charter.)

Early ballots cast totaled 110 votes, and election ballots cast were 797. By precinct, 1 voted 130 for and 43 against; 2 voted 109 for and 24 against; 3 voted 53 for and 28 against; 6 voted 155 for and 61 against; 7 voted 49 for and 24 against; 10 voted 37 for and 17 against; 14 voted 138 for and 37 against; and 23 voted 2 for and 0 against. Total votes were 907.