The City of Tucson

The Tucson Charter Change Coalition (TC3)

Charter Review Committee: Summary of Final Recommendations

The Charter Review Committee is recommending that the mayor and council put the following issues on the November 2015 ballot for voter approval:


Recommendations to define responsibilities and improve accountability

  1. Changes to the mayor’s responsibilities: Amend the charter to grant the mayor a full voice and vote on all matters before the council and for the mayor to count toward a council quorum.
  2. Changes to department director appointment and removal process:
    1. The mayor and council appoint and remove the city manager, city clerk, city attorney, and magistrates with a majority vote.
    2. The city manager appoints all other department directors with approval by a majority vote of the mayor and council.
    3. The city manager has sole authority to remove department directors.
  3. Eliminate civil service for department heads: Make all department directors “at will” employees exempt from Civil Service protections, except that the police chief and fire chief will retain their limited advisory civil service appeal rights. (No change would be made to the civil service of rank-and-file employees.)
  4. Mutual respect for council-manager form of government: Incorporate the city’s Code of Ethics Ordinance mutual respect and noninterference requirements into the charter.
    1. The language says the city manager and city employees shall recognize that they do not set policy, but make policy recommendations, and are responsible for carrying out the mayor and council’s policy decisions.
    2. For their part, the elected officials and their staff members shall:
      1. Recognize and respect the role of the city manager and city staff, and shall not interfere with the execution by the city manager of the manager’s powers and duties, or order, directly or indirectly, the appointment or removal by the city manager of any employee.
      2. Work solely through the city manager or the city manager’s designated staff. The mayor and council and their staffs may ask other city administrative officers and employees about the status of a matter and may ask for information, but they shall not expressly or implicitly give orders or direction to those employees, publicly or privately.
  5. Ward-only elections: The committee could reach no clear consensus on ward-only elections. The committee recommends that the mayor and council create a working group to study ward-only elections and any related issues (such as annexation, campaign finance, additional wards, or nonpartisan elections) in time for the 2016 elections, if placing something on the ballot is appropriate.

Recommendations to eliminate unnecessary fiscal restrictions

  1. Modify the property tax cap: The charter currently imposes a combined cap on primary and secondary property taxes of $1.75 per $100 of assessed value. Modify this restriction to apply the $1.75 limit only to the primary property tax. (Note: This is not a tax increase.)
  2. Eliminate the provision on pledging sales taxes: The charter currently prohibits the city from using sales tax revenue to secure bond financing. Eliminate this restriction from the charter. (Note: This is not a tax increase.)
  3. Ability to increase sales tax: (This is a new recommendation that was not previously considered.) The charter currently sets the sales tax at 2 percent. Add language giving the mayor and council authority to increase the sales tax above 2 percent with voter approval. (The point of this recommendation is to make it possible to increase the sales tax without also having to change the charter.)

Recommendations to address important omissions and cleanup issues

  1. Preamble: The current charter does not contain a preamble. Add a preamble to the charter to encourage interpreting and implementing the charter in a manner consistent with valuing arts and culture, the environment, diversity, transparency, prosperous economy, and equal protection of all Tucsonans. (The text of the proposed preamble is at the end of this document.)
  2. Cleanup amendments to the charter:
    1. Amend the city charter throughout to replace “councilman” with “councilmember,” “councilmen” with “council members,” “he” with “he/she,” and “his” with “his/her.” Add a provision stating that, “In this charter, all references to the masculine also include the feminine, where the context so requires, and vice versa.”
    2. Amend the city charter to update the titles of the Director of Tucson Water and the Director of Transportation, and to remove any references to appointed offices that no longer exist. (The charter currently refers to the directors as “Superintendent of Water” and “Superintendent of Streets.”)
    3. Change the heading in Chapter IV, Section 2 of the charter so it includes both Business Privilege and Property Taxes. (The section currently refers only to property taxes.)
    4. Chapter VII, Sec. 1, and Chapter IV, Sec. 1 are lengthy lists of enumerated powers. Revise them to make them shorter, to remove or modernize archaic and obsolete language, and to remove antiquated items and out-of-date time frames. Also incorporate language allowing the city to own and operate public arts and cultural facilities and to issue bonds for public arts and cultural purposes.

Packaging of the recommendations

Finally, the committee said it would like for all the recommendations to be treated as a package, except for the following recommendations, which would be treated individually:


Text of the Proposed Preamble to the City of Tucson Charter

We, the people of the City of Tucson, under the authority granted by the Constitution of the State of Arizona, establish this Charter as the fundamental law of the City in order to protect and enhance the health, safety, education and general welfare of the people; to enable municipal government to meet the needs of the people effectively and efficiently; to improve the quality of life for the City’s residents, businesses and visitors; to support cooperation with regional jurisdictions and our international neighbors; to encourage fair and equal participation of all persons in the affairs of the City; to provide education and economic opportunities that allow all to prosper; to provide for accountability and ethics in public service; to appreciate the power of diversity and unity; to protect the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic qualities of the Sonoran Desert environment; and to promote the arts and the diverse cultures that contribute to the uniqueness of this City.