Charter Review Report

Report of the Common Cause Sponsored Citizen’s Review of the Las Cruces City Charter.

 Over an eight month period in 2003, the Southern New Mexico Chapter of Common Cause facilitated a review of the Las Cruces Home Rule Charter by interested citizens.   From two public meetings attended by over 70 people, numerous committee meetings, and e-mail and telephone contacts, over 50 suggested changes to the current city charter were submitted.  The citizen steering committee used a ten point criteria to reduce the number to the ten most significant suggestions.  The criteria used were: 

1. Does the proposal institutionalize a process that promotes good government practice?
2. Does the proposal correct an omission that has resulted in poor government practice?
3. Does the proposal correct a historically bad governmental practice?
4. Does the proposal create more openness or responsiveness in government?
5. Does the proposal create more efficiency or effectiveness in government?
6. Does the proposal clarify terms of the charter?
7. Does the proposal have any chance of success with the public?
8. Is the proposal so complicated that it cannot be adequately explained to the public?
9. Is the proposal just and fair?
10. Does the proposal attempt to address something that is substantive? 

 Briefly, the proposed changes include the following:

1.  Article VI.  Planning. Before taking action concerning land use and development, the City Council shall issue a report on what the proposed action would cost in capital improvements as well as increased cost to the city, and that these costs would be paid for by those proposing the developments.

2.  Article X. Ethics (new article).  Directs the City Council to establish an ethics ordinance that would require the mayor and councilors to use their powers and resources of the city for the common good.

 3.  Article IX. Municipal Court and Article II City Council.  Establishes term limits of three, four year terms for all judges, councilors, and mayor.  

 4.  Article III. City Manager.  Requires the City Manager to submit an annual performance budget based on goals and priorities established by the City Council at an annual community strategic planning session.

 5.  Article III.  City Manager.  Requires an annual performance evaluation of the City Manager that would be open to the public. 

6.  Article II. City Council.  Establishes that the City Council will consist of eight Councilors instead of the current six.  Two of the Councilors would be elected at-large.  7.  Article II. City Council.  The Mayor and Councilors shall have full access to all city reports and operational information by making inquires only through the City Manager and/or those who direct organizational units of the city.

 8.  Article II. City Council.  The City Council shall appoint a Board of Public Utilities.  The Utility Board shall set rates based on operational costs.  Rates shall not include costs of expanding the system.  The Utility Board with the consent of City Council may issue revenue bonds to pay for capital improvements. 

 9.  Article VIII. Initiative, Referendum and Recall.   Changes wording such that the recall of an official can be approved by a simple majority of those voting in the recall election. 

10.  Article VIII. Initiative, Referendum and Recall.  Would allow voters to require reconsideration by the Council for any action taken by the Council.

 The suggested changes are thought provoking and if enacted would significantly change the way the city of Las Cruces is governed. 


Philip A. Banks, Co-chair, Southern New Mexico Chapter of Common Cause