After receiving the Amarillo City Council’s final approval last week, local voters are now set to decide two important ballot propositions in November’s election.

Working against a rushed timeline, the Amarillo City Council voted unanimously last week to place two items on the November election ballot. First, voters will decide whether to extend the terms of council members by an extra two years, giving the elected officials four-year terms. The proposal would also stagger future elections, with two members of the city council coming up for election every two years, while the mayoral election would be planned for a different cycle.

Citizens have raised concerns about the proposition’s ballot language, which opponents believe leaves questions about how the extensions would be used.

“The idea that these people could manipulate the charter to cancel their own elections, and then prevent future candidates from being elected in the same clean sweep they themselves enjoyed, just reeks of corruption,” Amarillo Republican activist Jason Foglesong said.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson originally pitched the idea during the 2019 municipal election, but later dropped the proposal following criticism from citizens. The move would mark a stark shift from council members’ current two-year term system, which has been a mainstay of the Amarillo City Charter written in 1913. City officials claim the term extensions, if passed, will not be used retroactively.

The second ballot item would cut the annual number of city council meetings by half, requiring two monthly meets instead of four—a decision Amarillo citizens feel would leave them with fewer opportunities to be a part of their civic process.

“We should have the right to address the city council every week, if not more. The city council works for the people and not the other way around,” Amarillo businessman Tom Scherlen told Texas Scorecard.

Both items will join a proposition for a $275 million downtown projects and Amarillo Civic Center expansion bond on the November ballot. The civic center election was originally slated for the May 2020 ballot, but it was postponed due to fears of the coronavirus.

Concerned voters are encouraged to talk with their neighbors about these issues and organize for the November election.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.