City Council examines Tucson charter change

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If the Tucson city council and mayor are to get pay raises, and more power, you would have to sign off on it. Because doing that would require changing the city charter, requiring a vote.

The council went back and forth on whether to do it Tuesday.

Since 1929, the Tucson City Charter has limited the power of the mayor; He can't vote to fire city officials and doesn't have the same voting rights as council members.

Members of the Tucson Charter Change Coalition have a proposal to change that, which they say will make city government run better. "We want an effective and efficient government in Tucson," says Ron Shoopman.

"We have an opportunity to move forward here and do something that's a genuine step in the right direction," says Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Rodgers.

The coalition also wants to make the mayor and council positions full-time, give the city manager more power, and change city elections to even numbered years. They believe that would streamline city elections.

"Constitutions should be living documents. That they should change with the times," says Tucson City Council Member Regina Romero.

The mayor and council agreed with most of the ideas, but would like to hear more from the public first.  "If this moves to the ballot, we'd want to see it moved to the ballot with a sense from everybody in the public," says Tucson City Council Member Karin Uhlich.

But there's not much time left. "For all practical purposes, July 7th is the end game," explains Mike Rankin.

That's when the city has to approve the language that will appear on the ballot.  "You'll never get to the point where everybody says, my voice has been heard. So we have to understand and we have to do the very best job we can of getting the input, analyzing it, and putting it forward," says Mayor Bob Walkup.

If they do put it forward, then it will be in the voters' hands.

Changing the election cycle and giving more authority to the city manager remain the sticking points the mayor and council will have to ponder these next two weeks. Meantime, the council plans to hear from more constituents in the coming weeks before deciding whether to put the charter change on the ballot.