It’s not often we hear about a city council approving a petition without sending it to the voters, but that is the case in Port Arthur, Texas this week.
Typically it goes like this;
Activists decide they’d like to see some new legislation enacted. They approach their elected officials and ask (lobby) for approval of the new legislation. If for any number of reasons officials don’t enact the new legislation, they become frustrated at government and pursue a petition drive. If they have the support they need, they eventually turn in the required petition signatures. The legislative body then calls an election and gives voters the opportunity to approve or reject the legislation. In some situations (enacting local ordinances or state statues) the legislative body can approve the legislation without sending it to voters. However, this rarely occurs. More often petitions are challenged and officials attempt to undermine the process to avoid letting voters decide.
This week in Port Arthur, Texas, officials took the high road, and voted to have complete a forensic audit without sending the issue to voters first. Petitions had been collected to have a forensic audit of the city. The council had previously opposed a forensic audit (even though an employee had been indicted and now convicted of theft) expressing concerns over costs (the cost of a municipal election is $75,000 to $85,000.) I’m sure many considerations went into the change of heart. Like the recent firing of a court clerk was for theft and tampering.
The Port Arthur city government was held accountable by citizens who knew how to use the initiative process.