August 20, 2008

Carrollton: Term limits, immigration are hot topics for city council

By Senitra Horbrook, Staff Writer

Public hearing for budget also set

The Carrollton City Council discussed two hot-button issues during a work session Tuesday night, only coming to a consensus on one.

The issue of doing away with term limits was brought up during the council’s retreat last month and it was again discussed during a work session two weeks ago, with some council members proposing the idea of doing away with term limits be placed on the ballot in the November election.

Current term limits allow council members to serve three two-year terms. While Mayor Ron Branson didn’t get a vote, he voiced his opinion Tuesday.

“Everybody talks about how important experience is,” he said, adding that there are many loopholes to easily exceed the six-year term limits. “I think it’s something we should take a look at.”

“I don’t see any problem with having it on the ballot,” said council member John Mahalik.

“I’m also for it,” said council member Terry Simons. “If you’re doing a good job, people are going to recognize it. If you’re doing a bad job, they’ll boot you out.”

The issue was put to rest for now as four council members voted against putting the elimination of term limits on the ballot.

“I’d rather not have it on there,” said council member Matthew Marchant, one of the dissenters. “We’ve had a lot of controversy in the past.”

The council was unable to come to a consensus on the proposed task force to study illegal immigration. Branson proposed a task force of residents when he was elected in May and after hearing a report of ideas from a subcommittee, Marchant suggested scrapping the resident task force and letting the subcommittee handle it all, with some open forums or public meetings to gather citizen input.

It has been proposed that each council member come up with a list of five people and the council will narrow those 40 names down to 16 task force committee members.

“I am having major trouble coming up with folks that are interested,” Marchant said.

The subcommittee of Branson, along with council members Herb Weidinger, Larry Williams and Terry Simons met Friday to discuss putting a task force together.

Randy Pennington, the city’s outside facilitator, presented the subcommittee’s ideas Tuesday. The subcommittee decided the task force should determine the scope and extent of illegal immigration in Carrollton, what steps the city can legally take to address the issue, come up with ways to assist property and business owners with compliance and assist residents on how to live in a diverse world.

“We want this group to be fact based, more than anecdotal,” said Leonard Martin, city manager.

The subcommittee also addresses what type of members they are looking for. They agreed that the task force should be a diverse group, including race, ethnicity, age, gender and where they reside in the city.

“The task force is looking for people that are rational, open-minded and don’t represent the fringe in either direction,” Pennington said.

The next step, Pennington said, is determining the selection process. However, after Marchant proposed abandoning the idea of a resident task force, council members will now think it over and discuss it at a future work session.

The city of Carrollton also recently announced its budget for fiscal year 2008-09. The total budget expenditures and transfers out of $181,913,992 is a 1.31 percent increase of 2007-08’s budget of $179,559,257. The city’s proposed tax rate of $.617875 is lower than the effective tax rate from Dallas County of $.618825.

That means only one public hearing is necessary on the proposed budget. That hearing has been set for Sept. 2. City council will vote on the budget Sept. 16 and will also provide additional opportunity for public comment at that time.

“We’re taking in more money … it’s from new growth, not existing properties,” said Bob Scott, chief financial officer/assistant city manager.

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