Voters accept charter; Now what?

Michael Bush, managing editor

September 12, 2013

With the citizens of Altus voting to accept the proposed City Charter on Tuesday, establishing our form of government as “Council-Manager” (as opposed to the current “Statutory Aldermanic”), many are asking, “What now?”

Tom Buchanan, one of the freeholders who helped draft the charter, said the time frame for the charter to take affect could be six to 1o weeks - or even longer, depending on the work load at the State Capitol.

Buchanan explained that first the Jackson County Election Board will have to certify the results on Friday, then it will be presented to the Altus City Council to be accepted. “This is just an official recognition of the charter,” said Buchanan, “there will be no action taken.”

From there, the charter will be presented to Governor’s office to be constitutionally confirmed. The governor’s legal counsel will review the charter line-by-line, and word-for-word. They’ll be looking for any “glaring omissions” or any language that is in conflict with the Oklahoma State Constitution, or applicable federal laws including the U.S. Constitution. In the case that any discrepancy is found, our charter includes a provision to enable the governor to simply strike the item(s) that are in conflict, and accept the remainder of the charter into law. And then she will have to sign it before it becomes law.

Along with Buchanan, the other freeholders who were chosen to draft the charter included Gina Wilson from Ward 1, Rosalyn Hall and Ricky Brewer from Ward 2, Jason Winters and Diane Landers from Ward 3, and Robert Garrison and Jill Owenby from Ward 4.

On the process of writing the final charter, Buchanan said, “We held many public meetings through the mid April, May, June time frame. These meetings all were held in compliance with the open meetings act, and included a town hall, all with the intent to garner additional public input. Untold hours were invested by my fellow freeholders as they reviewed and compared existing Charters of other Oklahoma cities in order to glean the best for Altus.” Buchanan went on to say, “The meeting process required true compromise between freeholders as different ideas were brought to the table, the end result being a living document, which will allow Altus the latitude to grow into the future.”

Buchanan wanted to thank and acknowledge not only his fellow freeholders for all of the time and effort put into drafting the charter, but to Jed Winters and Chris Riffle who were very instrumental in the initial work of the charter to get community interest to vote yes on the question. “Altus owes a thank you to these and others who worked behind the scenes to pass the charter. I also want to thank all of you for allowing me and my fellow freeholders the opportunity to be a part of what I believe is a giant step forward for our community.”

Once the charter becomes law, it will effectively get our Mayor and Council out of the day-to-day management of City business, allowing them to focus on governing and policy, while a professional City Manager is allowed to run daily business in a more streamlined and efficient manner. This will also give increased accountability by implementing checks and balances that are tailored to the way Altus works. These may include clearly spelled out recall policies for elected officials who are underperforming or derelict in their duties.

Altus voters accepted the proposed charter on Tuesday with 673 yes votes, to 234 no votes.