With early voting starting, I am getting a lot of questions about the other Charter amendments — Numbers 2 through 6.
The text of the proposed amendments is here.
(I’ve already posted about Amendment #1 on community oversight. I am voting FOR #1. My previous post is here.)
My thoughts on #2 through #6 are:
#2 — This amendment adds a new provision about what would happen if both the Mayor and Vice Mayor were unable to serve. Currently, the Charter is silent about what would happen. This is definitely a very low-probability event, but earlier this year, it became clear that if David Briley had been unable or unwilling to serve as Mayor for any reason, the seat would have remained vacant until the next election. This amendment fills the hole. If passed, the new provision would have the Council choose a temporary mayor. The person selected would not be allowed to run for the office. This is supposed to keep the Council from getting too bogged down in the politics of trying to figure who would get a head start in an election. I am voting FOR #2.
#3 — This amendment talks about when a special election will take place when various seats are vacant. Most of this amendment is just clarifying language. The biggest change in this one is about when to hold a special election for a vacant district council seat. Currently, if a vacancy will be less then 12 months, there is no special election. The amendment would change this threshold to 8 months. There are pros and cons both ways. With the current 12 months, an individual district may suffer from having no leadership for up to a year. The problem with shortening it up to 8 months is that there could be scenarios where a Council member might resign with 8 months and a day until the next scheduled election. Under the new language, that would trigger a special election. The special election would take about 70 days to organize, and then another few weeks for the Election Commission to certify the result. In that case, the winner would be getting sworn in with just about 5 months until the next election (and therefore immediately begin campaigning). On this one, I am close to indifferent and may let “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” guide me to vote AGAINST #3.
#4 — This amendment would change the oath of office for Metro positions to include a promise to uphold the Metro Charter. I am very indifferent on this because we are obligated to uphold the Charter whether it is in the oath of office or not. That said, I believe I will vote FOR #4.
#5 — This amendment would extend term limits for Council members from 2 terms to 3 terms. The argument behind this one is that term limits are said by some to have further watered down the power of the Metro Council and tilted our form of government even more in favor of the Mayor. I have two reasons why I’ll vote against this one. First, voters in Davidson County reject the idea of extending term limits every chance they get and I want to be responsive to that. Second, I suspect that Council members would not gain much more skill or influence or knowledge in years 9 to 12 than they do in years 5 to 8 in the Council. I’ll vote AGAINST #5.
#6 — This amendment would update the Charter to use gender neutral terms throughout. If you read the Charter now, it is striking how dated the terminology is. I will for FOR #6.