Kansas City’s Charter Review Commission concluded nearly five months of work Monday by recommending sweeping changes to the City Council composition and modest changes to the mayor’s powers.
The group also called for moving council elections from winter to warmer months and giving the city manager more flexibility with city departments and functions.
The commission urged the City Council to put the proposed changes before voters next April.
“I think we’ve advanced some important topics for continued discussion,” said Matt Dameron, the commission’s co-chairman. “Certainly I think we’re trying to create a charter that’s less rigid and more amenable to changing times.”
Among the key changes in the commission’s draft:
The council would move away from the current six in-district and six at-large configuration to 12 in-district members. Advocates said this could improve minority participation and encourage more grassroots, neighborhood-based candidates. Opponents say the current system works fine.
The mayor would be able to fire the city manager on his own, without needing the approval of at least six council members, as is now required The council would retain the ability to remove the city manager by a vote of nine council members without the mayor’s consent.
The mayor also would have more authority to craft the city budget. Currently, the manager drafts the initial budget and the mayor then weighs in. Under the revised charter, the mayor would prepare the budget in consultation with the city manager and staff before it goes to the City Council.
Currently, the council primary is held every four years, in February, and the general election is held in March. The revised charter draft calls for holding the primary every four years in April and the general election in June.
Currently, the charter requires nine city departments, including Aviation, Water, Health, Public Works and Fire. The revision would require only Finance, Human Resources, Law and Parks and Recreation. Commission members said that doesn’t mean the other departments would be eliminated, but those functions would simply be codified by ordinance and could be changed as warranted to give the city manager more flexibility.
The City Council must agree to put any charter recommendations on an election ballot, and many council members have said they oppose changing the council’s composition. Some also may disagree with increasing the mayor’s powers or with the department changes or other charter revisions, so it remains to be seen how much of the commission’s work would go to voters.