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Petitioners in Odessa have not only met their goal of 2,500 signatures needed to force a May city charter election, but have surpassed it. With 2,700 voters’ signatures collected so far, it looks as though Odessans will have an opportunity to vote for restructuring their city council this spring.
“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, who is helping lead petition outreach efforts.
The May election would allow Odessans to vote to amend their city charter, adding an at-large seat and allowing the mayor to vote on council business. Currently, Odessa City Council is comprised of five single-member districts and a mayor who can only vote in case of a tie.
As reported previously, the restructuring effort has not gone unopposed. Three city councilmembers – Malcom Hamilton (District 1), Barbara Graff (District 3), and Filiberto Gonzales (District 5) – have not hesitated to voice their disapproval, calling the petition “racist,” “bigoted,” and the equivalent of “gerrymandering.”
The local League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) also chimed in, threatening to individually sue petition organizers on the basis of purposely diluting the Hispanic vote.
Lead petition organizer Jim Rector, along with Wray, has consistently refuted racist claims, noting that the intention is to provide more accountability to city government and better representation for all Odessans.
In recent weeks, the number of petition signatures has grown significantly and opposition to the reforms has waned.
Rector and Wray plan to submit the petition with 3,000 signatures on February 5 – the Monday following Super Bowl Sunday.