SIKESTON - All the hard issues are hashed out and
voted on. An informal "straw poll" indicates the
proposed Home Rule Charter draft will be approved by
the commission. Now, charter commissioners are seeing
the light at the end of the tunnel and ended Monday's
meeting with discussion of how to "sell" the charter
to the voters.
The meeting began with Pat Cronan of Columbia, who was
hired by the charter commission for legal counsel on
the recommendation of the Missouri Municipal League.
He offered comments from his review of the proposed
Cronan said there were six issues he wished to bring
to the commissioners' attention:
* Section 11.4, which deals with amending the charter,
required two-thirds as much work to amend the charter
as to push an initiative through, according to Cronan.
Manuel Drumm, commissioner, said it should be a
"pretty major operation" to amend the charter whereas
changing an ordinance through initiative should be
Cronan agreed and recommended increasing the
percentage of registered qualified voters from 10
percent to 20 percent.
Commissioners approved the increase 8-1 with four of
the 13 commissioners absent.
* As recommended by Cronan, commissioners voted 9-0 to
add language to the section dealing with petitions,
Section 8.3, which would disallow withdrawing names
from a petition once it is filed.
* Section 5.2, which addresses the city's personnel
code, was changed by a 9-0 vote to specify the code
shall not include the Library Board, Board of
Municipal Utilities, the Housing Authority Board or
any other autonomous boards formed in the future
although those boards will not be prohibited from
adopting the city's personnel code if they choose to
* Cronan withdrew a question regarding language in
Section 3.5 which prohibits council members from
holding other city offices or jobs after being
convinced by commissioners the existing language was
* The wishes of commissioners for a section dealing
with term limits for council members was clarified.
Consensus was reached that the limit would be two
terms, which is a total of six years, as either an
at-large or ward representative council member.
After serving two terms as a council member, the
person would be eligible to run for and serve as mayor
for a three-year term or would have to sit out for
three years before running for a council seat again.
"It's term limits, but pretty watered down," said
Larry Nickell, commissioner.
* The final issue was on a section that was voted down
and was no longer applicable.
Cronan offered to field questions from commissioners
regarding his review.
Drumm offered information to back his opinion that
Section 6.9, which deals with the administration of
the budget, is indeed legal in its present form which
reads only advisory boards must have their budgets
approved by the city council with autonomous boards
having the power to set their own budgets without
approval by council.
Harry Sharp, commission chairman, said Drumm and Steve
Sikes, vice chairman for the commission, "took great
pains to make sure they remained separate."
Cronan had previously indicated that in his opinion
the arrangement, which is presently in place in
Sikeston, is in violation of statutes.
Cronan said he did not propose any change as the
commission seemed to have decided the matter, but
confirmed he believed the city should legally have
authority over the Board of Municipal Utilities.
"I disagree with you 100 percent, Mr. Cronan," said
Drumm. "There is no autonomy if someone (else)
controls the budget."
Drumm said the BMU should present the budget to the
council as a courtesy, but if the council does not
approve of the way the board is running things council
members have the option of making new appointments.
Charles Leible, city counselor, said he believed the
only way they would really know if the arrangement is
legal or not is if the matter is actually challenged
Moving to the next item, Sharp asked if commissioners
would like "another set of eyes to do a legal review
of the charter."
Cronan estimated a review would take six or seven
hours. "You have to read it two or three times," he
said. Sharp estimated the cost at $1,000-$2,000.
As only six commissioners voted in favor of the
additional review, the motion to pay for another
review was not passed.
Commissioners also reviewed a chart depicting "the way
the elections would start if the charter is approved,"
according to Sharp, so the council member terms would
be appropriately staggered.
Discussion then turned toward how to educate voters
about the Home Rule Charter in preparation for the
April 2 election as commissioners reviewed early
drafts of a proposed preface and an informational
Larry Tetley, commissioner, said the people he talked
with seemed to believe that the Home Rule Charter
wouldn't change anything, but commissioners agreed the
change to the ward system was a significant change.
Cronan said the section dealing with referendum,
recall and initiative imparted "a heck of a lot of
power that the people don't have now."
Drumm proposed bringing in former mayors to the next
meeting so commissioners could "hear what a mayor
actually does ... I don't know why we want to elect a
He expressed concern that three years is a long time
for the city staff and city manager to deal with "a
guy who thinks he's running (the city) when he isn't."
The wide range of opinions voiced by members of the
public and commissioners regarding the mayor and
whether the position should be a weak or strong mayor
elected by the people or by the council reminded
commissioners that their choice - a weak mayor elected
by the people - was a compromise.
Commissioners approved formally requesting the city
council to pass an ordinance placing the charter on
the April 2 ballot.
All 26 pages of the current Home Rule Charter draft
are available on the Internet for review by the
public. A link to the online draft can be found at