Sep 16, 2010 9:07 AM
TUCSON - On November second, voters across the country will head to the polls for big races with a lot at stake. Here in Tucson, there will also be a specific item on the ballot that could change the way our city functions: Proposition 401.
If it passes, it will change the Tucson City Charter, originally crafted in 1929.
Proposition 401 would give the mayor the same voting ability as council members. Right now, the mayor does not count toward meeting a quorum.
Also, department heads would no longer be classified under civil service and would report to city managers. Some say this change is complicated and confusing.
"It's still not clear to whom certain department heads are responsible. It puts a lot of authority in the hands of an unelected city manager, most cities are moving away from that," said Tom Prezelski, Chair of the "Protect Local Control, No on 401" Committee.
Those who support Proposition 401 say the change is necessary.
"I've read hundreds of charters of cities across America and we cannot find one city charter that extends civil service protection to a department head. That means that the department head is in some ways more powerfull than the elected officials," said Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Rogers. Rogers spoke to News4 on behalf of the "Yes! on 401" campaign.
Also, as it stands now, Mayor and Council are elected on a staggered, two year cycle. If Proposition 401 passes, they will be elected together every four years.
The proposition also calls for salary increases for Mayor and Council. Right now, the Mayor and City Council members are considered part-time, payed $42,000 and $24,000 respectively. The proposition would bump their salaries up to full time pay. Council members would make $61,000; the Mayor would make $76,000.
"It's just the wrong time to address that issue. It sends a very bad message to at a time when we are considering laying off city employees," Prezelski said.
"To think that this is some sort of part time job, like was created 81 years ago in the 1929 charter, is hilarious to most people," Rogers said.
At 6:30 tonight, Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik will host a town hall meeting at his midtown office, located at 3202 East 1st Street. Topics of discussion will include Proposition 401 and Proposition 400, the core services tax.