Commentary: Judge Montalvo rules city expanded intent of voters

On May 20, 2011, Judge Montalvo ruled that the citizen mounted petition denying taxpayer funded health benefits to domestic partners must be honored. In his ruling, Montalvo wrote that the city took it upon itself to expand the intent of the voter. Montalvo wrote, “[o]nce the Ordinance passed, the City, however interpreted the statue to remove health benefit coverage to retirees, elected officials, affiliated service contractors, domestic partners of employees, and certain dependent children, all of whom were previously covered”.

Montalvo goes on to write that it is impossible to state exactly what each voter intended when casting their vote therefore the intent must be derived from the local law that most closely addresses the issue, in this case the Texas Local Government Code. Therefore when applied to this standard, the Ordinance thus excludes retirees and elected officials. In his written opinion, Montalvo quotes The Federalists Papers (No. 10); “direct democracy can have unexpected consequences”, when noting the exclusion of the retirees and elected officials.

Our current city council needs to understand that El Paso expects a “representative form of government” as opposed to a “trustee form of government” that some in council have advocated. In their “representative” function, city council would not have voted to add domestic partners to the city’s health plan after the community told them not to. Instead, the majority of city council took it upon themselves to proclaim themselves “trustees” of the city and ignored the constituency.

The constituency rebelled and demanded representation by forcing a public vote on the issue. And won.

Had city council listened to what their constituency was demanding, not once, not twice but multiple times the “unexpected” consequences would never had happened. The community’s demand was simple; we don’t want to pay for “domestic partners”. Instead city council cost retirees and elected officials their taxpayer funded health plan because they ignored their mandate. Retirees have only one group to blame for their loss of benefits – city council who ignored their mandate.

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