Tag Archives: home rule charter

Turnout still pitiful

Eleven percent! I hope Princeton voters will pay attention to what happened down the highway over this weekend.

That was the turnout of registered voters in Farmersville, Texas, for a citywide election to determine three seats on the City Council and — this is critical — to determine the fate of a proposal to adopt a home-rule charter for the city.

With that, 11% of the city’s registered voters managed to drag themselves to the polls to cast their votes.

I am terribly dissatisfied with the turnout. Granted, the results of the balloting are a different matter. I will speak specifically of the home-rule charter result.

That is a big fu**ing deal, to borrow a quote from the current president of the United States who muttered it while serving as VP as Congress approved the Affordable Care Act.

The home-rule charter passed with a 174-59 vote in favor of the proposal. By my calculation, that presents an 11.3% turnout of registered votes. That miserable turnout prompts me to ask: What in the name of voter apathy does a city have to do get people interested enough to vote on a matter as critical as this?

State law required the city to distribute copies of the proposed home-rule charter to every registered voter in Farmersville. City Secretary Tabatha Monk did as she was instructed. With the help of Collin County’s election office, she determined the voter count in the city stood at 2,122.

Every registered voter in Farmersville received a copy of the document. I have tried on this blog to explain the significance of a city being able to set its own rules without having to rely on state statutes. I guess few of our friends in Farmersville were paying attention.

Local elections allow voters to make decisions on those who set policies that have a direct impact on our lives. Strangely — and shamefully — these local elections almost always seem to produce the kind of turnouts we saw on Saturday down the road in Farmersville.

I now must wonder what my neighbors in Princeton will do when they get the chance to vote on a home-rule charter. It might be later this year, or it could be in the spring of 2023. The city is working now on a document to present to voters. We’ll all get copies of the charter when it’s ready to present.

I will vote on it. As I said about the Farmersville charter, it’s a really big … deal!


Home rule panel slogs on

Princeton’s home-rule charter committee is moving forward on drafting a document that it hopes will be ready for the city’s voters to decide this coming November.

I am hearing a bit of chatter that the city’s effort to craft a governing document that enables the city to govern itself might not pass voters’ muster when they cast their ballots. I do hope that chatter is wrong.

The basis for that chatter comes from the city’s misstep in setting up the committee. Voters gave the city permission to create a charter committee this past November. It didn’t have enough members. The city then disbanded the committee and formed a new one. The process delayed the municipal vote, which now is tentatively set for this fall.

I am going to bank on the notion put forth by Mayor Brianna Chacon, who told me that the city’s burgeoning population has brought in a fresh new set of opinions on this issue. It will need those outlooks to reverse four previous citywide rejections of previous charter proposals.

The dealbreaker in those elections was the annexation. The 2017 Texas Legislature took that issue off the table by enacting a law that requires cities to obtain property owners’ permission to annex their property. Thus, that argument is no longer valid.

I am going to hope that Princeton is able to enact a city charter so it becomes a home-rule city instead of a general law city that is governed by rules established by state statutes.

Indeed, the city’s population has exploded. Princeton now is home to an estimated 20,000-plus residents. That number is growing each day. I see it happening in my neighborhood, where houses are spring up like prairie weeds.

There is no end in sight.

I wish the home-rule panel as it slogs its way through the process of drafting a document that will enable Princeton, Texas, to set its own rules for how it governs itself.


Home-rule election is set

Princeton residents are going to get a chance to vote to establish a home-rule charter for the community that is exploding with new residents moving in almost daily.

It took a little hiccup along the way to make it official, but the city’s fifth try at establishing a home-rule charter is going to occur.

The hiccup occurred when, after voters in November approved the formation of a home-rule charter committee, the city couldn’t recruit the minimum of 15 members to serve on the panel that would draft a charter for voters to consider and decide. The city council had to hustle to find enough members. So, it met the other evening in executive (or closed) session to make the decision it needed to make. It then ratified its decision with a recorded vote.

And so, the work begins in drafting a charter that it will present to voter in May.

The charter is an important document for Princeton. Its population has exploded, from 6,807 residents in 2010 to more than 17,000 in 2020; the latter number is growing rapidly at this very moment.

Princeton governs itself as a general law city, meaning it has to follow the rules and laws established by the Legislature. Home rule gives the city greater latitude in deciding zoning matters and establishes a purely “local control” over the way it governs the residents who live here.

I am all in favor of a home rule charter for the city my wife and I now call home. I welcome this initiative.

Princeton is a city on the move and my hope is that Mayor Brianna Chacon is right in believing that the city’s changing demographics, with forward-thinking new residents populating the city, will turn the tide in favor of the city being able to determine its destiny with a charter of its very own.


Neighboring cities take different paths toward same goal

Princeton and Farmersville happen to be two rapidly growing cities in Collin County, Texas.

Officials in both cities want the same thing at the moment. They want voters to approve measures to create home-rule charters in cities that are currently governed  under “general law” established by the Texas Legislature.

Both cities, though, are taking different paths toward the same goal.

Let’s look first at Princeton, where my and I live with our pooch, Toby the Puppy.

Princeton is going to conduct an election in November to establish a citizens committee that will draft a home-rule charter. The city will ask voters for permission to proceed. If voters say “yes,” the city will seat the committee and ask it to deliver a draft charter. The city isn’t waiting, however, for election results. They had a meeting this past week at City Hall to solicit members to join the committee.

If voters reject the committee idea, the plan stops. It’s dead. Gone. There will be no charter election next May.

Princeton’s growth has been staggering. Its 2010 census figure of 6,807 residents grew to more than 17,000 in 2020. State law says cities need a minimum of 5,000 inhabitants to call for an election. Princeton has had four tries already at approving a home-rule charter, but each one has failed.

Farmersville — about seven miles down the highway — has fewer people living there than Princeton. Its population stands at around 5,100. Farmersville already has a draft charter that was cobbled together by a committee. It is ready for public review.

Farmersville will not have an election asking permission from residents to form a committee. It has called for a May 2022 election to decide whether to proceed with a home-rule charter.

Both elections very well could signal the extent to which both cities have changed in recent years as new residents have flocked to their communities. Farmersville has built a remarkable community character already. It has a charming downtown square that is home to lively celebrations annually; most recently, Old Time Saturday revived itself there after being shelved for a year by the COVID pandemic.

Princeton’s community character is still a work in progress. It has no downtown district worth mentioning. However, the city is building a marvelous new municipal government complex just east of Princeton High School on U.S. 380 that city leaders hope will blossom into a thriving center for community activity built around green space and commercial development planned nearby.

Here is to the future of both communities. May the voters in two thriving Collin County cities make the correct decisions on where the want their cities to go.


It’s all about the turnout

Allow me this brief moment to express my frustration over what I expect will occur in early November.

My neighbors and I are going to vote for Princeton City Council members, for Princeton Independent School District trustees and for a special municipal referendum calling for the formation of a home-rule charter committee.

The frustration, which I expect fully to experience, will be in the abysmal voter turnout.

Mayor Brianna Chacon, who is running for re-election to a full term, is urging us to vote. She laments the historically low turnout for these municipal elections. It well might fall into the single-digit percentage of eligible voters who actually cast ballots on Nov. 2. That stinks to high heaven, man!

How many times must I say the same thing? Which is that local elections bring the most tangible impact on us as voters. We don’t care! Or so the dismal turnouts would suggest. City Councils set our tax policy; they determine the level of police and fire protection we receive; they set policy for trash pickup; they spend money to repair our streets.

The home-rule charter committee decision has me particularly juiced up. Princeton’s population exploded between the 2010 and 2020 census; we now are home to more than 18,000 inhabitants. Texas law grants cities with populations of 5,000 or greater the right to seek home-rule charter governance; Princeton currently is governed as a “general law” city, adhering to laws written by the Legislature.

We gotta change that, folks!

I don’t want to see a miserable voter turnout make that decision. We need to have everyone casting ballots who is eligible to do so.

Are we clear? Good! See you at the polls!


In search of a community identity

My wife and I live in a growing North Texas community that, as near as I can tell, is searching to create an identity for itself.

Princeton doesn’t seem to have a community ID. I don’t hear much talk about finding one. Having lived there for more than two years — and we intend for it to be our “forever home” — it’s just a feeling I get when I venture around the city to run errands or to do whatever it is semi-retired guys do.

The city will have an election in November to take a baby step toward establishing an identity. Princeton will ask voters to approve the establishment of a citizens committee to draft a home-rule charter. The aim is to reel in the reins of power to City Hall and to set the governing rules right here at home. Princeton, which now is home to more than 18,000 residents (and counting!) is governed under “general law,” meaning that the Legislature sets the rules for how this exploding community governs itself.

City Makes Another Run At Home-Rule Charter (ketr.org)

Princeton has tried four times to establish a home rule charter ever since it crossed the 5,000-resident threshold established by the Texas Constitution. Residents who don’t even live in the city have spearheaded efforts to defeat the measure all four times; the anti-charter cabal lives in what is called the city’s “extraterritorial jurisdiction.”

Princeton needs to establish the identity I sense is missing. There is no bustling downtown district. City Hall is going to move from its paltry location along U.S. 380 just west of Second Avenue to a shiny new complex just east of Princeton High School. The municipal complex is going to be a thing of beauty.

Princeton To Welcome New Government Complex (ketr.org)

I don’t have the precise answer as to how Princeton establishes its community ID or how it defines it. I do believe, though, that a thriving community must be more than a sea of rooftops under which families live after working all day. Bedroom communities are fine. I just want more for the city where my wife and I plan to live for the proverbial duration.

Is the home rule charter election set for November a small step toward that end? I do hope so. I want to see take the next step in the spring when it asks voters to decide on the future of a home rule charter for Princeton.



Princeton set to make another run at home rule

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Will the fifth time be the charm for Princeton, Texas, to establish a home rule charter?

The City Council has decided to call an election for this coming November that will be the first of a two-step process that officials hope will produce a home rule charter for the rapidly growing Collin County community.

The November election would allow the city to proceed with forming a charter committee. Then the panel would draft a charter and present it to voters who then would decide up or down on the charter in May 2022.

This has been an arduous process for the city that is likely to see its population double when they post the 2020 official census figures. The 2010 census put Princeton’s population at 6,807 residents. The next census figures to exceed 13,000 residents. Indeed, City Manager Derek Borg believes the city’s population might triple. 

I happen to live in a subdivision that is still under construction and from my front porch, I see no end in sight to it all.

Still, the city has gone to the voters four times on a home rule charter. It has lost all four times. The city is believed to be the largest in Texas that is governed under what is called “general law,” or laws established by the Legislature.

It’s time for Princeton to assume full control of issues affecting its own population.

Previous efforts at forming a home-rule charter have gone down largely because of fears of involuntary annexation. Well, the 2017 Legislature took care of that by enacting a law that banned cities from annexing property without the property owners’ permission.

According to the Princeton Herald, the first election in November would ask: “Shall a commission be chosen to draft a new charter?” City Attorney David Overcash said the city isn’t constrained by the election to begin work on forming a charter commission. However,  according to the Herald, “If the voters reject the commission proposal in the November election … the commission would dissolve.”

I am one Princeton resident who wants the city to adopt a home-rule charter. It is past time for the city to take command of its affairs and not dance to the dictates of politicians from afar.

Home rule charter anyone?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My wife and I love the city where we chose to settle in Collin County.

Princeton, Texas, is a rapidly growing community that appears to have great things in store for it. However, it needs to accomplish something that most cities its size have done: It needs a home-rule charter to govern its affairs.

It appears the City Council might be on its way toward making its fifth — yes, its fifth — try to persuade voters that home rule is better than being governed by the dictates of the state.

Now if I were to advise the city, I would make sure that it tells voters one key point above all others, given that this point apparently sunk previous attempts at approving a home rule charter. It would be that the Texas Legislature made sure that the city cannot annex property without the property owners’ consent.

Annexation appears to have been the deal breaker in previous attempts at approving a home rule charter. Some residents — led by a gentleman who doesn’t live within the city limits — got scared away from approving the charter over fear that the city could just grab their land and pull it inside its corporate limits. The 2017 Legislature wrote a law that prohibits such ham-handed annexation. It said cities need to ask permission. If they don’t get it, cities cannot annex the land.

Princeton’s population, which was recorded at 6,807 after the 2010 Census, will at least double when they count heads effective with the 2020 Census. That would make Princeton the largest city in Texas without a home rule charter, according to a story in the Princeton Herald.

We hear it said that “local control is best.” I believe that to be true. So, when someone espouses “local control” of municipal affairs, the city needs to govern itself, not allow it to be governed by “general law” set by the state.

The Princeton Herald reported this week that the council has decided to appoint a charter commission that will draft a proposed home rule charter, discuss it openly and publicly, then ask the City Council to refer it to voters. State law prohibits the city from campaigning actively in favor of any political issue. However, a citizens committee can carry that water for the city.

It’s time, folks. Great things await if Princeton’s residents are willing to take command of their city’s future.

City grapples with charting its own destiny

My education into the community my wife and I call home has taken a major step forward, courtesy of an assignment I completed for KETR-FM radio’s website.

I wrote a story about Princeton, Texas’s struggles to enact a home rule charter, and how four ballot box failures have kept the city functioning under laws established by the state of Texas.

Read the KETR-FM story here.

It is, to say the very least, one of the more peculiar municipal conflicts I have ever seen.

The city, dating back to 2007, has had four municipal elections that sought a city charter. It has fallen short every time. The opposition to home rule comes from a group of residents with specific bones to pick with City Hall. They express concern over tax policy and over annexation.

One of the leaders of the opposition, Michael Biggs, doesn’t even live within the city limits. He resides just south of the city, which means he cannot vote in these elections. Still, he is able to persuade enough of the city’s voters to go along with his opposition to enacting a city charter.

The city assesses a municipal tax rate of 68 cents per $100 assessed property valuation. A charter would enable the city to levy a tax of as much as $2.50 per $100. City Manager Derek Borg told me that possibility is a complete non-starter; it won’t happen, not ever!

Annexation is the bigger bogeyman for the anti-charter folks. They don’t want the city to envelop their property. What fascinates me, though, is that the city cannot do it without property owners’ permission, which apparently doesn’t assuage the concern of those who oppose the charter idea.

I am perplexed, indeed, that the city cannot seem to muster enough electoral support within its corporate limits to overcome the opposition that stifles City Hall’s effort to establish a home rule charter. The election returns I’ve seen reveal abysmal voter turnout in a city of several thousand residents.

The most recent measure, which failed in May 2014, went down to defeat by a vote of 260 to 151 ballots. The 2010 census put the population of Princeton at roughly 6,800 residents, which means that half of those residents were eligible to vote in the municipal election. Most of them weren’t interested enough to cast their ballots.

State law places plenty of restrictions on how cities can govern themselves. They surrender a good bit of “local control” to legislative fiat.

In my view that is no way to run a city. Maybe one day — and I hope it is soon — Princeton will be able to write its own rules for how it charts its own future.

'Home rule' on red-light cameras? Apparently not

You live in a Texas city and your elected officials — the folks who represent you and your neighbors — have decided to install cameras at dangerous intersections to deter motorists from running red lights.

Your city has the authority to do such a thing under Texas law. Not as it relates to red-light cameras.

The Texas Senate has sent to the House a bill that would ban cities from deploying the cameras, as Amarillo and dozens of other cities have done.

Well, there goes home rule.

Sen. Bob Hall has declared the cameras to be a failure across the state.


The bill would allow the cameras on toll roads. Therefore, given that there isn’t a toll road within hundreds of miles of the Panhandle, we won’t have the cameras.

I believe it is a mistake for the Legislature to seek to read the minds of mayors, council members, city managers and traffic engineers on this issue.

Are the cameras popular among Amarillo motorists? No. It’s because they catch them doing something they aren’t supposed to do, which is try to sneak past street signals that have turned red or, in some drastic cases, race through the lights from a dead stop.

Then again, I remain unconvinced that most motorists detest the cameras enough to merit their removal. Some of them do and they have protested loudly.

Their voices have been heard — way down yonder in Austin.