The current City Charter of Richmond dates back to 1948, but it’s been almost two decades since the city took a good hard look at it. Last March, City Council adopted an ordinance to establish the City Charter Review Commission and tasked it with conducting a comprehensive analysis of the document.
Here are five things you need to know about the project.
🏙 The commission has nine members
City Council appointed the nine members of the commission. It’s chaired by Dr. Thad Williamson, a UR professor and civic activist. According to the ordinance, all members should have “substantial experience in local government” and cannot be a current city employee.
🔍 The review will be comprehensive
History and grammar nerds, unite. The commission will be looking at everything, including outdated text and clerical errors. It’ll also evaluate potential amendments that the Mayor or City Council members suggest.
📝 It can recommend changes
Expect to see a lot of amendment suggestions to clean up language and grammar — but not just that. The ordinance specifically calls out that the commission could recommend things like staggered terms for City Council and other changes to the city’s “current form of government.”
🗣 Public participation is important
The commission hosted its first public meeting last Thursday. It plans to put several more on the agenda this spring, including monthly work sessions that will be open to the public.
In addition to attending meetings, Richmonders will be able to access an informational website and may be asked to complete short surveys as the review continues.
The first public survey opened on May 19 and will keep collecting responses until June 21. Share your thoughts.
🗓 There’s a deadline
The ordinance says the group needs to sum up its final recommendations in a report to City Council by July 31. Once the final report has been submitted, City Council will have a few months to consider any edits.
City Council won’t be making the changes itself — amendments will have to go to the 2024 session of the General Assembly of Virginia.
On May 23, the commission’s two subcommittees both released reports with recommendations. The Governance Subcommittee focused on suggestions for improvements to the existing Mayor-Council form of government, while the Electoral Subcommittee explored a possible Council-Manager form of government.
The Governance Subcommittee put forward several ideas, each listed with an accompanying goal. Those include increasing the authority and compensation of the mayor, rearranging the City Attorney office, and allowing City Council to provide feedback on the mayor’s budget in advance of its formal introduction.
On the Electoral side, more substantial changes are being explored. These include:
- Bringing the mayor on as a voting member of City Council
- Switching the mayoral election to be an at-large, citywide election with instant run-off voting rather than requiring five out of nine districts to win
- Reducing the size of City Council from nine members to six, not including the mayor
- Introducing four-year, staggered terms for City Council
- Appointing a City Manager to serve as chief executive officer of the city
Reminder: It’ll be up to the Virginia General Assembly to approve any proposed changes.
What questions do you have about the initial recommendations? Shoot them our way.