Killeen, Temple voters show the power of an engaged, informed electorate (TX)

Bell County taxpayers garnered two victories with the Nov. 8 election as Killeen residents voted to recall five city council members and Temple residents defeated a proposed charter amendment that would have mandated 2.5 police officers per 1,000 residents.

The Killeen election stems from action taken last spring when the council first voted to spend $750,000 buying out the employment contract of former City Manager Connie Green and then resisted providing a credible explanation to outraged taxpayers.  Jonathan Okray, a private citizen, maneuvered through the bureaucratic process and led a petition drive resulting in all seven council members being tapped for recall.  One member losing a May re-election bid and another resigning left five remaining members on Tuesday’s ballot.

Despite administrative twists, bureaucratic turns and a vocal effort by pro-council forces, Okray and his supporters successfully kept the recall issue in the public eye.  Their message – promoting taxpayer-friendly goals like transparency in government and public official accountability – obviously resonated with voters as four officials were recalled by 70+ percent of voters and one by 60+ percent.

In Temple, voters soundly defeated a charter amendment seeking to mandate 2.5 police officers per 1,000 residents.  The measure could have brought Temple’s largest ever tax increase – up to 11 cents per $100 of property value – to cover salaries and other costs related to the new officers.  For a city with a well-regarded police force and decreasing crime rates, this expensive solution to a non-existent problem was met with 86 percent of voters saying “no.”

The Temple Police Association, a group affiliated with Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), self-described  as “the largest police officers’ union in Texas,” initiated the charter amendment effort.  Defeat of this amendment provides an additional “win” for taxpayers across Texas as successful passage of the initiative would have set updated precedent for police organizations (or other employee interest groups) to use charter amendments to impact municipal staffing policies anywhere in the state.

Opposition to the Temple charter amendment also became a community effort.  Save Our Charter PAC was first to speak out against the measure and were then joined by the Temple Chamber of Commerce,  the Temple Police Officer’s Association and the Texas Municipal Police Association.  The Temple Daily Telegram also published an editorial encouraging a “no” vote while other prominent civic leaders circulated letters and phone calls voicing disapproval of the amendment.

A minimum of 1,482 signatures were required for the amendment to be placed on the ballot.  As 3,874 votes against the amendment were cast and 655 for, it’s interesting to note that less than half of the petition signors appear to have continued supporting the measure all the way to the ballot box.

Save Our Charter PAC Treasurer Thomas Baird observed how “it is good to see once again that when ordinary citizens receive all the facts and understand the issues then they will make the right decisions at the ballot box.”  That seems the case for Temple as well as for Killeen.  In this election cycle Bell County residents showed that citizens can indeed fight city hall – or fight for city hall when conditions warrant – but most importantly, they showed the power of an engaged and informed electorate.

These two elections will hopefully inspire and motivate others across our state and our country as hope for a prosperous future truly depends on an engaged, informed citizenry.

Lou Ann Anderson is an advocate working to create awareness regarding the Texas probate system and its surrounding culture. She is the Online Producer at www.EstateofDenial.com, a Policy Advisor with Americans for Prosperity Foundation – Texas and a Director of Women on the Wall. Lou Ann may be contacted at info@EstateofDenial.com.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jdauben Joey G. Dauben

    I wonder if the City of Temple measure of mandating 2.5 cops per 1,000 residents was linked to the FEMA requirements that editor Brandy L. Owen reported about in 2009 and again here: http://thepalmerpost.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/special-report-fema-population-relocation-documents-missing-in-palmer-police-manual/

    Lou Ann, was anything mentioned about federal mandates requiring that many officers that you know of?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Joey, I never heard FEMA or federal mandates noted as any part of this discussion – and I had talks with a variety of people involved on numerous fronts. The sense was always that CLEAT was attempting passage here (guess we were seen as a compliant target) for later roll-outs of the effort across the state. Their goal of creating a template for increased police officer hires (i.e., prospective members) was seen as the impetus. If they had any FEMA-related interests, it wasn’t part of the local conversation. In fact, in one article I quoted a national police chiefs’ organization that said ratios were nothing more than one tool in a series of factors that should be used for determining police staffing needs. As I’m visiting with folks here in the aftermath, I’ll ask and let you know if that rings a bell with anyone.

    Still would love to get together and visit! Did you see we had an attempted “occupation” at the AFPF D.C. Summit last weekend? My post from yesterday has a lot of video. You would have loved it!!

    LA

  • Anonymous

    Hi Joey, I never heard FEMA or federal mandates noted as any part of this discussion – and I had talks with a variety of people involved on numerous fronts. The sense was always that CLEAT was attempting passage here (guess we were seen as a compliant target) for later roll-outs of the effort across the state. Their goal of creating a template for increased police officer hires (i.e., prospective members) was seen as the impetus. If they had any FEMA-related interests, it wasn’t part of the local conversation. In fact, in one article I quoted a national police chiefs’ organization that said ratios were nothing more than one tool in a series of factors that should be used for determining police staffing needs. As I’m visiting with folks here in the aftermath, I’ll ask and let you know if that rings a bell with anyone.

    Still would love to get together and visit! Did you see we had an attempted “occupation” at the AFPF D.C. Summit last weekend? My post from yesterday has a lot of video. You would have loved it!!

    LA