Roma citizens will decide on proposed changes to the city charter during a special election in May, going against the mayor’s wishes to save money by holding the election in November.
The election will be on possible charter amendments such as changes that would make it easier to hire and fire the city manager by requiring only a simple majority vote by the council instead of a super-majority vote.
Another possible change would allow a former mayor or council member to hold a “compensated appointive office” or be employed by the city after one year of the expiration of the term for which they were elected or appointed.
The city council approved the May election during Wednesday’s city council meeting by a three to one vote, with only Councilmember Clyde Guerra voting against it and Mayor Roberto Salinas absent from the meeting.
Salinas said he wanted the election to be held in November when his position and another on the city council will be up for re-election.
The special election is expected to cost approximately $20,000, according to Roma City Manager Crisanto Salinas.
“I just don’t think it was a good idea,” the mayor said about having a special election in May. “The city council did not allocate money for a special election and then they went ahead and called a special election.”
Salinas said the council would hold another budget workshop to determine from which department they would make cuts to pay for the election. However, he said he didn’t think there was anywhere the city could make cuts.
“We just had a budget workshop very recently and we determined, basically, we are right on track with what we had budgeted,” Salinas said. “We’re working well within our budget and so we really didn’t see any room for adjustments anywhere or any need for adjustments.”
During that workshop, held on Jan. 21, the mayor had said he hoped to use any money available to possibly provide a pay increase to their police officers — an issue he said was causing officers to leave for other departments.
Now, however, the mayor said he doesn’t a pay increase is feasible.
“I really doubt it,” he said. “We saw that there was really no room for adjustment in the budget so I don’t know; I’m going to leave it up to the city council to tell us where they’re going to make adjustments in the budget since they’re the ones that called for the election.”
Councilman Jose G. Cantu Jr. said the majority of the council wanted the election in May so that it wouldn’t be a “political event.”
“What we want is for the people to go out and vote, if they want to vote, for a change or not,” Cantu said.
“We don’t want for any of the parties to have politiqueras or to have anything going on,” he added, referring to campaign workers who are usually paid to harvest votes.
“So we just wanted an election for the city which would not have anything to do with political sides,” he said. “That is the reason we decided to go with the May election.
Regarding the mayor’s concern about funding the special election, Cantu argued the council had already saved money for the city with changes to the city attorney position and by changing insurance carriers.
He added the city council would make another change next month that would save more money for the city but declined to say what that change would be.
“If we say it, they’re going to try to do something about it but it’s going to come out in the next regular city meeting,” Cantu said.
“We’re doing what’s best for the city,” Cantu said. “I believe it’s time for Roma to go into a different direction, into what’s best for the community and for the people that live here.”