Residents packed into City Hall Sunday night to protest the city’s decision to have a weekend meeting where it would consider suspending the city charter.
It’s the latest twist in the term limit controversy that has engulfed the city with a lawsuit and competing ballot proposals.
After hearing from dozens of angry residents, Mayor Jeff Williams said he wants the city to come together.
The council voted unanimously to not suspend the rules, finally killing its own term limit proposal. The citizen-led initiative will still be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“I am willing to vote against moving forward here tonight,” Williams said. “I believe in what we have already done. We have already done what we need to do.”
Councilwoman Victoria Farrar-Myers agreed, saying she wouldn’t support suspending the rules. But she urged voters not to support the citizen-led petition on term limits. “This city needs to find a way to have civil discourse,” Farrar-Myers said.
Just having the item on the ballot rallied people from both sides to show up on a Sunday night.
“You’re suspending the rules because your jobs are in jeopardy,” said Max Hart, an Arlington resident. “If you don’t respect the rules, why should the citizens follow the rules? If you want a city with no rules, all you have to do is tell us.”
The term limit controversy has taken over Arlington politics since a resident-led petition with more than 11,000 signatures put the item on the ballot last month. The wording on that petition would limit council members to three two-year terms and it would be retroactive, forcing five council members out of office over two years.
The city responded with its own term limit language that would extend terms to three years and limit them to three consecutive terms. The council attempted to place that on the ballot.
Zack Maxwell, who organized the petition initiative, filed a lawsuit arguing that the council didn’t have the required two readings to get its term limit proposition on the ballot.
A judge agreed, issuing a temporary restraining order that apparently killed the city’s measure. That led Arlington to consider suspending the rules so it could rush the votes at special meetings Sunday and Monday.
The Arlington city charter requires the city to wait 72 hours between first and second readings and that one of the votes occur at a regular meeting.
That’s why the council considered suspending the rules to its charter. That will not happen now. Monday is the deadline to get items on the ballot.
Waxahachie resident Amy Hedtke said just considering suspending the rules is dangerous and could be emulated by other cities when things don’t go their way.
“You guys should be absolutely embarrassed about this,” Hedtke said. “You were found to be doing something illegal. You’re trying to clean up a mess in a way that a 3-year-old does and you’re making everything worse.”
Arlington resident Jane Lynn asked whether there is any kind of case law or precedent for a city doing this.
“I don’t see this as an emergency,” Lynn said. “If you all are against term limits there’s a lot of confusion on why we are voting on an alternative term limits. I’m afraid the voters are going to be very confused that one or more will pass. I just wish that there would have been some sort of a compromise on this.”
Some speakers supported the city’s alternative term limit proposal, which will not be on the ballot.
“I’m grateful you’re doing all you can to give the voters a choice,” said Robert Kimball, an Arlington resident. “I feel like the voters are smart and if they’re given options, they can review those options and make their own decision.”