There has been a lot of talk from current Corpus Christi city council member and candidate for Mayor Paulette Guajardo about being a full-time mayor for the city. While some would agree that the concept might be a noble point-of-order, it is ultimately the voters that decide on that issue—and it isn’t in a mayoral race.
By design, cities are organized for the primary purpose of managing the needs of people who live and work there. City governments provide services, such as streets, law enforcement, and utilities, and enact and enforce ordinances to protect citizens and foster a better city environment on the whole. Texas is like much of the rest of the country and they focus on the belief that municipalities and other local governments operate under the idea that they know best for their local area. Local government control has long since the civil war day been a foundation of the American local political fabric.
It all started back in 1845 when Texas became a state. The State Legislature handled the incorporation of cities within the state until a special act known as the Home Rule Amendment of 1912. For many years the Legislature amended or repealed the acts that governed the cities it created.
The following year in 1913, communities were given the authority to incorporate either by special law or under what was known as “general laws.” After it was all said and done Texas voters had the final say on who governed them and how it was managed. Voters overwhelmingly passed the Home Rule Amendment, Article XI, Section 5.
The Home Rule Amendment that was approved by voters gave cities with over 5,000 citizens the power to adopt their own charter after an election. By default and definition this gave them the power of self- government. Even today cities in Texas are classified as general law or home rule. According to a voter approved charter, Corpus Christi falls under the home rule amendment.
According to the Texas Municipal League (TML) the differences between the two types of charter are:
“A home rule city may do anything authorized by its charter that is not specifically prohibited or preempted by the Texas Constitution or state or federal law. A general law city has no charter and may only exercise those powers that are specifically granted or implied by statute.”
So what is the big deal?
Just like our state legislature the people of Texas have for the most part stood against full-time politicians and have voted to govern themselves accordingly under the home rule. While there have been volumes written on the subject of representative governments, full-time mayors and the roles of city managers, it has been largely felt that Texans believe that we should leave the overall management to somebody else and our elected leaders can focus on legislative priorities while providing oversight alongside the city council.
But some cities do not see it that way:
When you think of a City Manager you generally think of just that—a manager. In almost any business in the world there are managers who handle the day to day operations of the business and they tackle things like budget recommendations, special projects, Human Resources and almost anything that you can think of that goes on during the normal course of operation. Just like a manager, the city manager can make certain decisions to a point but overall ruling authority is left up to the city council and mayor.
San Antonio has a city manager but Houston does not. Sylvester Turner is not only the mayor of the city, but he serves as the Chief Executive of the city. In San Antonio, Ron Nierburg serves as mayor while Erik Walsh serves as the city manager. It depends on how it is written under the city charter as to how the city is governed and by whom. To use a baseball analogy the manager of the team handles the day to day operations of the club while the executive leadership makes executive decisions.
Understanding a home rule charter versus general law isn’t easy and while here in Corpus Christi the question of making changes to the city’s charter did recently come up there was no indication of having a full-time mayor. To make that happen there would have to eventually be a vote of the citizenship and that has yet to happen and it is not scheduled to happen.
Guajardo has during previous campaign appearances made reference to being a full-time mayor for the city of Corpus Christi and has made passing suggestions that she would be “energetic” when she is put into office, if the voters decide to go that route. Guajardo is not completely foolish to the way that the city works and she well understands that she would not be a full-time mayor like she has suggested. But reading between the lines she is likely simply suggesting that she would be more visible at city and community events and that she has the youthful energy needed to do the job, almost as if to imply that sitting Mayor Joe McComb is physically unfit or energetic enough to hold office. The flip side to that is that others might see her stance as being a personal and direct attack against Mayor McComb and as being uninformed about how the city government actually operates—which she is not.
Disclaimer: While Mayor Joe McComb’s campaign is a political advertiser of The Southside Light News they in no way control the content that is produced.