Edinburg on track to call for November charter amendment election

Edinburg City Hall on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])
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EDINBURG — City leaders here are on track to call for a special election this November that would give voters a chance to decide on a baker’s dozen worth of changes and updates to the Edinburg City Charter.

The Edinburg City Council got their first look at the 13 proposed charter amendments — titled Proposition A through Proposition M — during a workshop at city hall Tuesday evening.

The majority of the changes, if approved by voters, would “clean up” the city’s governing document to be in line with current state law, Edinburg City Attorney Omar Ochoa said at the top of the workshop.

“There are some provisions of the charter that conflict, for example, with the Texas Constitution,” Ochoa said.

“The Texas Constitution always wins in a fight against the city charter. … Some of these suggestions, you’ll see, put the language of the charter in line,” he said.

However, other proposed changes would ask voters to undo decisions they made at the ballot box during previous charter amendment elections, while still others would change charter language that — through litigation — has been found to be unconstitutional.


The first of the suggested changes, Proposition A, would have voters choose whether they want to extend term limits for elected officials from two to three.

But the idea comes just six years after Edinburg residents overwhelmingly chose to impose the two term limit.

“There was another charter amendment (election) in 2018 to reduce that from three terms to two terms,” Ochoa said.

That meant that councilmembers could serve a maximum of eight years in office. However, the amendment language was a bit fuzzy over whether a councilmember could circumvent that time limit by running for a different place on the city council, whose seats are at-large.

“Without that kind of express limited language, it could be interpreted that somebody could jump from Place 1 to Place 2, Place 3 and do two terms in each spot,” Ochoa explained.

“That’s one of the cleanup aspects of this change is that it does make it explicit that term limits apply to any place,” the city attorney added a moment later.

The only exception would be that a councilmember who had termed out of their seat could still run for and serve two terms as mayor, and vice versa — a termed out mayor could run for and serve two terms as a councilmember.

Another reason for the proposal is to give newly elected officials the chance to get up to speed on what it means to serve in public office, and to see their governance goals come to fruition.

“One of the reasons was for long term continuity,” said Diane Teter, a retired college professor who has served on the charter review committee since its creation last August.

“There are projects that are not just for one term or two terms, but it’s gonna be three terms. Plus, we’re going to also take into account a learning curve if we have a councilman that comes in … and he doesn’t quite know what’s going on,” she said.

But at least one elected official — Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza Jr. — said he’s personally opposed to extending term limits.

“Personally, for me, I think eight years is a good enough time. I think that I take very sacred what the voters have elected to have, and that’s two terms back in 2018,” Garza said after Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Garza, once the Edinburg city manager, was first elected to office in December 2021, when he unseated then-Mayor Richard Molina, who was at the time fending off criminal allegations of election fraud.

A jury acquitted Molina on all charges in August 2022.


Recent litigation has prompted another suggested charter amendment.

Last March, a federal judge found that the city charter’s provisions regarding the circulation of petitions violated the First Amendment.

The ruling came as part of a lawsuit by progressive activists who wanted Edinburg to implement a $15 minimum wage.

“There are some changes that are coming in that are related to the federal case involving the city and Ground Game on the minimum wage petition,” Ochoa said.

The city rejected the petition, citing its noncompliance with the charter, including how the signatures had been gathered by volunteers who were not city residents.

“A federal judge found that to be unconstitutional, and so this also removes that language in accordance with the judge’s ruling,” the city attorney said of Proposition J.

Other proposed changes include removing term limits for department heads appointed by the city council.

Currently, the council is responsible for appointing the city manager, city attorney, city secretary and municipal court clerk; however, in 2018, when voters approved of term limits for elected officials, they also approved those same limits for those four staff positions.

Proposition C would make those positions “at the pleasure of the city council.”

“I really like this one,” Place 1 Councilman Dan Diaz said.

“When we were searching for a city manager, we felt like we didn’t get the pool we wanted initially because why would they relocate for … a shelf life of eight years?” he said.

Meanwhile, Proposition H would codify the position of city attorney as a full-time staff position, versus a contracted one.

It’s a change that would fall in line with the direction that the city council has already chosen to head in, as they continue to seek out a successor for Ochoa, who announced his pending resignation earlier this spring.

Proposition I would codify existing city practice regarding its finance director. It would clarify that the city’s chief budget officer is the director of finance, and that that person reports to the city manager.

And Proposition G would change the charter to reflect that municipal elections must be won by a majority, rather than a plurality, of votes.

“I thought this was already in place,’ a perplexed Garza said during the workshop.

Ochoa said that the city has already been operating that way due to state law and that Prop. G would just formalize things.

“The reason there’s a runoff is because the Texas Constitution requires that there be a 50%-plus winner for those elections,” Ochoa said.