After establishing a 5,000 or greater population, Aledo started discussions of becoming a Home Rule city.
Home Rule was established by Texas voters in 1912 and enabling legislation was passed in 1913. According to information published by the city of Bridgeport — which Aledo City Attorney Betsy Elam has worked with in establishing Home Rule — the major objectives of the act were to create a favorable climate for more direct governing of cities by their residents, secure adequate powers so that municipalities could meet increased demands for services, avoid interference in local government from the state legislature and allow cities to act without affirmative action of the legislature.
A charter is established by a charter commission and approved by voters to determine the governmental structure of their city.
“There are two ways to establish a charter commission and a charter commission is an entity that crafts and drafts the charter,” Elam said at Thursday’s city council meeting. “The first way is not used very much — it would involve an election and there would be two propositions on the ballot. The first [proposition] would be do the voters want to establish a charter for the city of Aledo and the second [proposition] would be electing 15 or more members of a charter commission. That’s a very cumbersome number for a city the size of Aledo.”
The other option, Elam said, is either the city council or mayor appoints a charter commission, the charter is drafted by the commission and then submitted to the voters.
“The council’s only role is going to be to call an election to determine if citizens want to adopt a Home Rule Charter,” Elam said. “So that charter commission is very, very important.”
But in order to be eligible to adopt a Home Rule Charter, the council had to declare that Aledo’s population is 5,000 or more. A consequence of determining a population of 5,000 or more is it changes the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction from half a mile to one mile.
“We looked at the [Council of Governments] population estimates and on Jan. 1 of 2019, COG estimated Aledo’s population to be 4,240. They estimated as of Jan 1, 2020, there would be 4,570, that’s a population growth of 7.8%,” Elam said. “It appears from the building permits that you’ve received and the homes that have been built that the population growth could be more than 7.8%, but if it were 7.8%, your number of inhabitants at this time would be over 4,900. So if the population growth was more than 7.8% that would impact that.”
Additionally, Elam said they obtained residential utility connections and in considering the number of families determined a population of 5,027.
The council approved the establishment of the city’s population based on the 5,027 number.
Elam said it would be a minimum of six months in creating a charter commission and establishing the charter for the city. If it was completed by August, the city could have a November of 2021 election and if not, they could push it to a May of 2022 election.
“Betsy and I talked about bringing this back up in January if that’s your wishes and mainly start talking about who would be on the charter commission, so it was just introduction tonight in how soon you would start the process,” Aledo City Administrator Bill Funderburk said. “Personally I don’t see an election happening until November, a year from now — could be the earliest. I think six months is a minimum on a charter committee but they’re going to need longer than that.”
In discussion about how many would be on the charter commission, Place 4 Councilmember Kimberly Hiebert said five would be too few.
“I think this is a really important step that we’re taking and we need to get good representation,” Hiebert said. “There’s going to be people that don’t show up and we don’t want this being orchestrated by two or three people.”
Elam said the city of Bridgeport opted to have about 15 members on their commission.
“They had a broad representation of the city,” she said. “When you establish this commission, it doesn’t say so in state law, but you can establish the parameters of how they would proceed with the discussions and we could come up with some form of bylaws and rules of quorum and how many are necessary to take a vote on any one provision. Those are all things the council needs to think about. State law does not provide us with a whole lot of guidance on this, so we do have a lot of discretion.”
No action was taken and the item is set to be brought back to the January 2021 city council meeting.