The Bryan Times,
I am writing to express my concern over Bryan City Council’s action last week to propose a Bryan city charter amendment to abolish the Board of Public Affairs. “City moves to dissolve BPA,” Oct 22, The Bryan Times.
The charter is our city’s “constitution.” It provides the legal framework for local government, establishing duties, responsibilities and limitations of authority through its provision.
The charter has been amended a number of times since it was created many years ago. As a Bryan resident since 1967, I have witnessed a number of these amendment processes.
Because of the critical importance of amending our local government’s basic framework, city council has typically appointed charter review committees composed of unbiased citizens. These charter review committees reviewed the charter, discussed and evaluated proposed amendments, and recommended changes to city council for placement on the ballot. The process insured public input in vetting amendments and helped avoid charter amendments that may not ahve been in our community’s overall best interests.
Last week, during a hearing of public concerns, a former city councilman read a prepared statement that recommended amending the city charter by abolishing the Board of Public Affairs. A quick motion and second followed and, with no discussion whatsoever, council unanimously directed the city attorney to prepare this legislation. Because the subject was introduced during a hearing of public concern instead of as a council agenda item, interested citizens had no prior notice and were therefore denied an opportunity to address the matter prior to city council’s vote. By directing the city attorney to prepare the legislation and amendment, citizens will also be denied input on what form the proposed charter amendment will take until it is presented to city council for action.
Based on the schedule shared at their last meeting, council seems intent on adding their proposed charter amendment to the spring primary ballot, when voter turnout is typically lower than at the November general election.
Since there is no compelling reason to treat this critical proccess as an emergency, I call on city council to rescind its October 21 action and appoint a charter review committee of local citizens to review this and any other proposed Bryan city charter provisions.
If this charter amendment is indeed worth pursing, let it be pursued in the light of day with full public input, thoughtful consideration and transparency, rather than by a few select individuals behind closed doors.
Albert H. Horn, Jr.
(Horn is a former member of the Bryan Board of Public Affairs).