An amended agenda to the Tuesday, Nov. 20 City Council meeting has been issued. Of special interest is item 10 and its amended Council agenda.
Items 10a and 10b were added to the agenda. Item 10a states, “Discuss the recommendation from the Altus/Southwest Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that the current position of Business Development Director be deleted, and the current funding for said position be transferred to the EDC.” This item regards the position previously occupied by Sean Garrison.
Item 10b. says, “Review, discuss and vote to direct staff to prepare resolution, election proclamation, and other related agenda items to change to a Charter form of government under the provisions of 11 O.S.A, § (Subsection) 13-102 (2).
Mayor David Webb stated, “Item 10b comes at the request of two Council members and confirmation from me. There continues to be much discussion regarding changing our form of government. I believe we could potentially operate more effectively with a change in the form of government,” Webb said. “I think it is time for the citizens of Altus to once again voice their opinion on the subject. I do not think a change just for change sake is appropriate, rather we should study what we really want and need and mold a Charter to fit our needs for the future. This agenda item is asking Council to vote to proceed with the process of preparing the appropriate documents which would allow this decision to come to the citizens for a vote.”
The Oklahoma State Statutes establish that municipalities may request to form a charter. That subsection referenced in the Council agenda states, “2. The governing body, by resolution, so directs. The order calling for the election shall be issued within ten (10) days after a petition has been filed with the governing body or within ten (10) days after the date of the governing body resolution. Laws 1977, c. 256, § 13‑102, eff. July 1, 1978.”
A town or city of 2,000 or greater in population may form a charter “for its own government.” According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, a charter is a document that outlines conditions under which an entity is organized, defining its rights and privileges.
Currently Altus is the largest city in Oklahoma to have an aldermanic form of government, as opposed to other forms which have charters. In the distant past, a charter was written for Altus and at some point the charter was revoked.
The Oklahoma Statutes give two ways of asking for a charter to be written. One is for at least 25 percent of the registered voters of the municipality to submit a petition to have a charter. The other is for the governing body, currently in Altus that’s the City Council, to call for a charter by resolution. That’s the resolution referred to in item 10b.
Within 10 days of the date of the resolution, an order calling for the election would be issued, according to the statutes referenced above. Within 30 days after the order calling for the election, the election would be held. Voters would be given the choice of voting “yes” or “no” on having a charter for its own government.
A board of “freeholders” would be voted on in the same election. In subsection 13-103, it states that the board of freeholders “shall consist of two qualified electors from each ward in the municipality. The freeholders shall be elected by the registered voters of the respective wards. The two candidates receiving the highest number of votes in each ward shall be elected as members of the board of freeholders.”
“The county election board shall canvass the returns and the secretary of the board shall, within five days after the canvass of the returns of the election, certify the results to the municipal governing body (§13‑104). If a majority of the votes cast on the question are in favor of framing a charter for the municipality, the board shall tabulate the votes on the election of freeholders and declare the results in the certification to the governing body.”
“The board of freeholders shall prepare a charter for the municipality within ninety days after their election. The charter shall be consistent with and subject to the Oklahoma Constitution and shall not be in conflict with the Constitution and laws relating to the exercise of initiative and referendum.” After a period of advertising to the public, the charter would be approved/disapproved by the voters within twenty days. If it is approved by the majority of the voters, it is sent to various entities including the Governor of the State.
The “Governor shall approve the charter if it is not in conflict with the Constitution and laws of Oklahoma. Upon his approval, the charter shall become the organic law of the municipality and supersede any existing charter and all ordinances in conflict with it,” (§13-107)