Adopted on December 27th 1917, the City of Lubbock’s charter has been rarely updated and most recently was seventeen years ago to create an Electric Utility Board for LP&L. The text was not written with today’s Lubbock in mind, and includes references to “jitney cars,” “velocipedes,” “hoops,” and the “crying of goods.” Now that Lubbock is a large and growing metropolitan area, reforms are needed to ensure broad citizen participation in municipal democracy and governance.
Enshrine a living wage as municipal pay for the Mayor and City Council
The lack of a living wage severely restricts the percentage of Lubbock citizen’s that can participate in governance. The mayorship and city council positions are full-time work with no pay. A living wage must be paid so any Lubbock citizen can pursue this civic calling. In survey’s of Lubbock’s citizens, the majority support at least $60,000 for these positions.
The $50,000 and $70,000 Laredo, TX pays its City Council and Mayor respectively should be considered benchmarks.
Lubbock’s citizen petition process is a broken tool that must be fixed to allow for participatory democracy.
It should be easy and consistent from year to year for citizens to vote on proposing an ordinance for the council’s consideration, and a process for vetting citizen ordinances should exist before costly special ballot initiatives are undertaken.
Lubbock’s charter determines the number of signatures needed for a citizen petition based on voter turnout in the preceding local election. This number changes significantly from year to year, as an example, the most recent election turnout has caused the number of signatures needed for a proposed citizen ordinance to triple.
The number of needed signatures for a petition should be 4% of the number of registered voters in the city of Lubbock.
Petitions for citizen ordinances can be signed digitally.
Citizen ordinances with the needed number of signatures that are rejected by the City Council are eligible for a ballot initiative if deemed legal by the City Attorney.
At-large City Council positions are part of Lubbock’s history of racism. There are no democratically acceptable justifications for adding new at-large positions.
As part of the landmark 1979 civil rights lawsuit against Lubbock, it was definitively shown that Lubbock’s at-large city council system was racially motivated and that all members of the original city charter commission were members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Adding at-large council positions is a racially motivated attempt to suppress voices of Lubbock’s older neighborhoods with significant black and brown populations.
Lubbock’s current City Council is not overburdened by the number of citizens they each represent. Dallas City Council Members represent almost double the number of citizens a Lubbock council member does. Amarillo’s council only has four members.