Mayor recommends committee members to propose amendments to Town Charter

Oakland Mayor Chris Goodman has recommended six residents to serve on a Citizens Advisory Committee that will review the Town Charter and propose amendments to it.
Goodman distributed copies of his recommendations to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its July 16 meeting.
The list includes himself, Aldermen Karl Chambless and Kelly Rector, District 4 Fayette County Commissioner Tim Goodroe, Patrick Mallon and Bill Rapp.
The mayor noted that creation of the committee does not require passage of an ordinance or a vote by the board. He called the list a “pretty good mix” of residents who will be able to review the Charter and make recommendations.
“Of course, once we get past the recommendations, the board will have to take action,” he said. “So, I just wanted to get that out there, because we’re going to get it done. In order to take some action in 2016, we’re going to have to get started on that process now.”
Article XI, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution states that a municipality can propose changes to its Charter by one of the following methods:
(1) a two-thirds vote of the local legislative body
(2) a majority of residents voting in a general or special election
Town Attorney Richard Myers has said any proposed amendments must be submitted for approval by both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly as a Private Act.
Gov. Bill Haslam would then have to sign the Private Act, and Secretary of State Tre Hargett would certify its adoption.
But to become effective, it would have to be ratified by at least three of the four Oakland aldermen within 60 days after it is signed by the governor.
During its May 21 meeting, the board discussed the possibility of changing the Charter to add more members and to establish staggered terms.
Myers noted that the state legislature convenes each January, and the session lasts four or five months. He said the board should ask a member of Oakland’s legislative delegation to be its “champion” on the proposed Charter change.
“If you guys approve it, and you want it to go a certain way, they’re going to push it through,” Myers said. “But you’ve got to get it to them in time, so that they can process it through the system.”
Rector asked whether the board wants to “fine-tune” anything else in the Charter while it is considering the proposed changes.
Alderman John Troncone said the board could consider decreasing the mayor’s salary, changing the position from full-time to part-time and increasing the aldermen’s compensation.
While noting that he is “very cautious about opening” the Charter, Goodman recommended that the aldermen get their “thoughts together” and ask a committee of residents to “gather them up.”
“I know some things need to be changed,” the mayor acknowledged, “and we don’t need to take it lightly at all. But I do think some type of committee that actually did that research and pulled the information in would be worthwhile.”
Chambless said he is “open” to a discussion about adding more members to the board, and he considers staggered terms “a plausible process.”
“This board is comprised of three new guys and one old guy,” he acknowledged. “So, maybe if it were two and two, or something like that, then knowledge would be carried over.”
But Chambless said he does not like the idea of a part-time mayor, because the town needs “full-time management.” He noted that many municipalities with a part-time mayor employ a full-time manager.
“I don’t see where the financial advantage of that is,” he said. “If the mayor participates fully in the full-time position, I think that would be worth two people.”
Although he believes future aldermen might benefit from increased compensation, Chambless expressed uncertainty about decreasing the mayor’s salary.
“I’d hate to think that the full-time mayor is making less than a department head,” he said. “And a lot of the department heads make a very substantial salary, because they do hard work.”
Alderman Billy Ray Morris said he would like the board members to set Dec. 1 as the “deadline” to compile their list of proposed Charter changes. That way, Myers could do the “proper paperwork” and have it ready to submit to Nashville.
Goodman said the aldermen must consider whether they want future board members to be elected at-large or from individual districts, and if another member should be added when the town reaches a certain population.
“There’s a lot to think through this,” the mayor concluded, “but this is a starting point.”