Lubbock is reviewing its city charter, an important document that has not changed much since it was adopted over a century ago. A committee has been tasked with modernizing the charter and making other suggestions.
The first chance for citizens to have a say in this process was Tuesday night.
It was a room full of passionate people who were all on the same page, including many East Lubbock residents who said they felt left out of this process so far.
Over a dozen Lubbockites spoke and two concerns came up most often - how much the city council is paid and the possibility of adding at-large representatives.
Right now, the mayor of Lubbock makes $900 a year and the six city council people make $300 a year. That hasn’t changed since the 1920s. Everyone who spoke at this first public hearing was in favor of raising that.
Now the question is how much. Most people who spoke suggested a living wage, which would probably be somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 a year. Another option is what would be considered a supplemental income or just update the wages for inflation, which would be more like a few thousand dollars a year. Outside of this public hearing, some people have suggested that the pay shouldn’t change.
Nick Muniz was one of the citizens who spoke at the hearing. He said the low pay for the council is a barrier for most people to be able to run.
"A livable wage would make people like myself want to run for city council," Muniz said. "I put a ballot in a couple years ago, obviously found out how much I was going to get paid, and pulled that ballot out really quickly. There are people in my age group who would love to be a part of the democratic process, but if there's not an attainable to do so, why should we stick around?"
One Lubbock Chamber of Commerce survey about charter reform asked respondents if they would support adding two at-large positions to the city council. Voters across the city would elect these people to serve two-year terms.
Lubbock used to have positions like that, but a court decision in the 1980s ended it and created geographic districts. Councilmembers now live in the community they represent. This directly led to diversity on the council when the first two people of color were elected.
Lubbockites at the public hearing were worried that adding at-large positions would be like taking several steps back in diversity progress.
But James Arnold, chairman of the charter review committee, said at-large positions will not be considered.
"We're under the 1983, I believe, court order that mandates single-member districts," Arnold said. "Adding at-large positions for the city council is not in our scope as a charter review committee."
The next public hearing is scheduled for April 15. For more information on the charter review process and what's being discussed, check out this explainer.
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