Donna charter amendment election draws questions

Voters in Donna will decide on three proposed changes to the city charter in the upcoming May 4 election. And while Propositions A and B are fairly straightforward — asking voters to consider extending the term lengths of the mayor, commissioners and the municipal judge from three years to four — questions lingered about what, specifically, city leaders are hoping to change with the passage of Prop C.

According to a sample ballot, Prop C reads: “The removal from the city of Donna charter of unconstitutional provisions and provisions superceded (sic) by statute.” However, information regarding which sections or portions of the charter the city hopes to remove remained unavailable until Friday — just three days prior to the start of early voting.

Posted on the city’s website under the city secretary’s page, voters can now find a new document titled “Public Notice Proposition C.” The document lists a line-by-line illustration of the portions of the charter city leaders deem out of date.

In all, there are nine proposed deletions, the majority which would remove elections provisions no longer in sync with state law.

One proposed change would bring the charter more in line with the requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act, while another would remove a provision that allowed the city to withhold payment of claims or debts to people or businesses that are delinquent in their taxes.

Another proposed change would remove language regarding the ability for litigation to be filed against the city, a change that reflects the city’s sovereign immunity.

The city commission convened a charter review committee during a Feb. 4 special meeting. The committee met once to discuss the proposed changes, City Secretary Laura Balderrama said.

Just two weeks later, on Feb. 19, the city commission voted to order a charter amendment special election.

However, when pressed for details about what changes would be made to the city charter upon the passage of Proposition C, city leaders could not cite specifics as recently as Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Just after the meeting adjourned, Donna City Manager Carlos Yerena referred questions to the city attorney.

“Whatever is unconstitutional, or contrary to statutes — for example, the election stuff. We have to go by the election code, uniform election dates and that stuff — that, we take out,” City Attorney Javier Villalobos said.

When asked for a list of the proposed changes in Prop C, Villalobos responded he was still looking into the matter. “Actually, there’s some studying that I need to do on some of the issues, too,” he said.

“What’s very clear, (that’s) definitely out,” Villalobos said, referring to unnamed portions of the charter that are no longer viable under current state law. “Some of the stuff that’s not, I’ll take a look at, but that’s what it is,” he said.

Early voting begins Monday, April 22 and runs through Tuesday, April 30. Polls will remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout early voting, with the exception of Sunday, April 28, when polls will be closed.

The polls will likewise remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Saturday, May 4. Voters may cast their ballots at Amigos Del Valle, 1408 Silver Ave. in Donna.