by Gene Pando, El Paso Metro
The City of Socorro is slated to vote on a new Charter on November 6, 2001. The Charter is framed on the City of El Paso charter with important differences.
Socorro’s City Charter calls for a City Manager. While some consider this an important move forward, the charter also demands that the City Manager be a current resident. “This defeats the purpose of the City Manager because it will weaken the position considerably,” according to a Socorro contractor. “The City will be unable to benefit from the experience of managers from other cities and the fragile standing of the position will make for an ineffective administrator. Expect the turnover to be very high.”
The Charter is greatly more detailed with respect to Initiative, Referendum and Recall than the City of El Paso Charter. Clearly, the leadership in Socorro had wanted for their procedures to be transparently legal. As opposed to the City of El Paso who has, zealously, guarded the prerogatives of the Mayor even at the cost of deceiving the public. Socorro, for example, has petition templates that citizens may use when initiating a petition and clearly delineates deadlines and procedures. The City of El Paso has replaced procedures with the City Attorney’s “moving target” process recently rejected by the State of Texas.
Although, the new procedures should properly be adopted, the Socorro Charter has other problems. Its Civil Service rules are fatally flawed. It sets up the same procedures used in the County and the City of El Paso. These have been set up to maintain inefficient and autocratic relations. Instead of allowing departments to hire from a pool of qualified and efficient applicants, it forces them to select among candidates qualified by rules external to the Department’s needs. This lends itself to political meddling as is so starkly exemplified in the County of El Paso under the current administration to autocratic prerogatives and arrogant dismissal of ordinary citizens as is the case in the City of El Paso.
Overall, the Charter is a barely reworked version of the City of El Paso’s. Socorro can chart its own way and does not have to “copy” the County or the City. Until it does the City of Socorro will not live up to its full potential.