Outdated City Charter hasn’t been changed since 1947

By: 
JOSEPH GRANT
Lead Staff Reporter

The great French philosopher and writer Rousseau, once said that: “Good laws lead to the making of better ones; bad ones bring about worse.”
What Rousseau meant by his statement is that people can rule effectively when laws are just but when bad laws exist and people do nothing to improve upon them for the good of man, this laissez-faire style of government can lend to abuse and chaos.
Government, whether it’s city, state or federal needs to be re-examined every generation or so.
Perhaps with Rousseau’s statement in mind, the City Commission held a special session on Tuesday,December 19, at 9:00 a.m. in the City Commission Room of the City Hall to examine their original 1947 Charter. The Charter, while serving Sweetwater well for many years is outdated in regard to its citizens, modern times and how to run city government.
The City Commission then began a workshop on preparing revisions to the City Charter for a May 2018 Charter election.
The Charter is the City’s Constitution. The last time the City Charter Document was voted on was July 29,1947 over 70 years ago. The intent is to look at the current document and see how it can possibly be streamlined and improved. This would have to be put on a ballot as a ballot initiative, as any sort of changes to a charter have to be approved by the voters. A charter election would typically be called on May 5.
Over the many decades, challenges have been encountered through the many limitations within in the Charter. State laws have been amended but the Charter has rarely been updated to reflect these changes and thereby, many of the laws in the Charter have not reflected current guidelines and have been superseded by the state law.
There are three ways a charter can be amended.
First, the Commission can amend the charter and leave it up to the voters to ratify.
Secondly, a Charter Commission can be created to amend the document, as local government is bound by this.
Lastly, citizens have the right and the power to change or initiate change within their local government, but this requires signatures on a petition.
By design, a Charter needs to define and entail such issues as the running of and regulations of a city government, its elections, the provided utilities of that city, such as water, power and so on.
The Charter for a city such as Sweetwater is important in a historical sense, as it tells the governing history of our town.
One of the main reasons that the Charter needs to be examined and modified, as well as modernized is that some of the initiatives may now be regarded as unconstitutional in regard to state and or federal law.
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