In his state of the city address last week, City Manager Zach Walker called on the community to push for a City Charter review commission, something that would need City Council's approval.
Though the original 1961 charter has been amended a handful of times since 1978, that year represents the last major citizen review commission, Walker said.
Some council members agree with Walker that the charter is antiquated in several ways and could use an update but think it would be prudent to wait a bit before they jump too far into that process.
For one, the council will look different in less than two months, as District 3 representative Scott Roberson did not seek re-election April 4, Tom Van Camp lost a three-candidate primary race for the District 4 seat and Curt Dougherty in District 2 has a challenger.
Furthermore, Council Member Karen DeLuccie said during Monday's council study session, city staff is leaner than a few years ago and knee-deep in budget preparations for the next couple months.
Roberson said he's in favor of a review, though it might be best to wait until after the elections. He suggested such a commission be odd-numbered and relatively small for easier consensus, and it shouldn't feel rushed and could look at other recent charter updates in neighboring cities.
Blue Springs voters approved some charter amendments last year, and Lee's Summit and Kansas City have also made changes in the last half-dozen years.
“Give them plenty of time,” Roberson said. “Take the time to do research.”
“It would be quite an ordeal,” Council Member John Perkins said, though he would prefer to “wait until new body is sworn in.”
Perkins added that they should be cautious about any procedural changes that might make it more difficult for citizens to petition for changes.
City Counselor Shannon Marcano suggested having a limited scope of review – looking at several sections and offering small areas to change – rather than a wholesale review for a new charter. That way, she said, if citizens liked some but not all the proposed changes, all the prior work wouldn't go for naught.
Mayor Eileen Weir said it would be awkward for council members to possibly make decisions for a charter review process in which they would not participate, but she also doesn't want to sit idle.
“I'm perfectly content to wait a little bit longer,” she said, adding that would be a subject for the council's strategic planning retreat in May.
“That said, we talked about this in 2017 and did nothing, and the charter's now three years older,” she said, and in that time the city has updated its quarter-century-old comprehensive development plan and several legacy systems. “The bottom line is there's never going to be a great time to do this.”
City managers and attorneys, department directors and numerous citizens on boards and commissions have been “consistently flummoxed” by some parts of the charter, Weir said. “The hardest part is getting started.”
The mayor suggested keeping the matter on study session agendas, if even just for brief discussion or update.
“We could at least start discussions to think about how we might select commission members,” Weir said. “I think it's very important to keep the conversation moving forward until the community tells us that they don't us to review the charter.”