An ongoing citizen-led effort to amend Odessa’s city charter celebrated a major victory today as the signatures of over 4,200 voters were submitted in a petition to city hall.
The petition calls for a May election that gives local residents an opportunity to change their city council’s structure for the first time in 25 years by adding an at-large member and allowing the mayor to vote on regular council business.
Lead Organizer Jim Rector at City Hall
The last time the city charter was amended to change the number of council seats was 1993, when Odessa’s population was 91,000. Today, city records indicate 125,000 people reside in the West Texas city.
Yet while population growth has played a role in the reform effort, petition organizers point to other issues such as distrust of their local government, misrepresentation, and a lack of accountability as major drivers.
“The amount of signatures we have collected in 45 days is unprecedented and shows the depth of displeasure that Odessans from all over have had with their city government. We want change and we want better representation,” said Chris Wray, one of the petition organizers.
The effort faced opposition from several city council members as well as the local League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) who claimed the petition effort was racially-motivated. LULAC’s attorney Domingo Garcia even went as far as to threaten to sue individual petition organizers.
Jim Rector, Wray, and others involved have consistently refuted LULAC’s accusations, stating that the goal is for better representation of all Odessans and that the 4,200 signatures include residents from all council districts.
Time will tell if LULAC follows through with its threats. In the meantime, Odessans should prepare for a May election.