WO opposes Senate bill that would challenge city’s authority
Legislation in the Texas Senate may have a direct impact on the status of West Orange and other cities as municipalities.
The West Orange City Council, consequently, passed a resolution opposing Senate Bill 343 and any other legislation which would threaten, diminish and/or eliminate the authority of a home rule municipality at their regular meeting on February 23.
Mayor Roy McDonald reported there is legislation afoot to abolish the rights of home rule charter cities in Texas so all municipalities would be the same as a general law city.
“We would have to rely on Texas law and the city would have very little authority. We will be presenting this resolution to our legislator personally,” McDonald said.
There are two categories of cities in Texas: home rule and general law, according to the Texas Municipal League website.
General law cities are smaller cities whose powers are limited; they operate according to specific state statutes that define their powers and duties. They are restricted to doing what the state directs or permits them to do.
If a general law city has not been granted the express or implied power by the state to initiate a particular action, none may be taken.
Home rule cities are cities with populations of more than 5,000 in which citizens have adopted home rule charters. A charter is a document that establishes the city’s governmental structure and provides for the distribution of powers and duties among the various branches of government.
In order to be implemented, the charter must be approved by the people at an election. Likewise, changes in the charter must be approved by a vote of the people.
The city’s resolution reads as follows:
Whereas, in 1868 a federal judge named John Forest Dillon issued a ruling that cities can do only what their state government expressly authorizes them to do; and Whereas, after that federal court decision, the people of Texas decided centralized government was not in their best interest and, in 1912, adopted a constitutional amendment affirming Texas’ commitment to local decision-making; and Whereas, the Texas Constitution, in Article XI, Section 5, authorizes cities with a population of 5,000 or more to adopt, by election, a home rule charter which grants the citizens of that city the power of self-government; and Whereas, the City of West Orange adopted it home rule charter in May 1956; and Whereas, Senate Bill 343, filed by Senator Don Huffiness during this the 84th Texas Legislative Session, would totally upend the relationship between Texas cities and state government by causing Texas to revert to the rule created in Dillon’s 1868 federal court decision and would require City of West Orange voters and local elected officials to get the Texas state legislature’s permission to enact any local ordinance.
In other city business, a public hearing was held prior to the regular meeting regarding the site of the proposed housing project at 816 Memphis St.
Resident JoAnn Priddy asked if the housing leases required a criminal history background check. She was informed that they do.
She also asked who she could speak with about leasing guidelines.
Billie Trahan asked what it took to get a house condemned in the city.
She said there is a vacant house on Crockett St. that has become “very unsightly.”
“It’s an old neighborhood, but it’s not a ghetto,” she said.
Trahan has also field to run for city council for the May 9, 2015 General Election.
The council approved amending terms of a legal services agreement with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP regarding additional demolition projects.
City Manager Mike Stelly several properties in the city have already been demolished and there is still some funding left over to do three or four more properties.
The law firm will now be paid a flat fee versus an hourly rate they were paid previously.
Lastly, Cody Marshall was approved for membership as a firefighter in the West Orange Volunteer Fire Department.
Marshall just turned 18 and is a junior in school. He was a junior firefighter prior to joining the WOVFD.