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Home run for home rule

by | Nov 18, 2022 | Latest, News

By John Kanelis

It took five tries, but Princeton now has a home-rule charter that enables the city to set its own rules, rather than relying on statutes approved by the Texas Legislature.

Princeton voters on Nov. 8 approved a home-rule charter provision, giving it a nearly 56% majority from more than 4,000 votes cast.

Princeton Mayor Brianna Chacon, who led a citizens’ effort to approve the charter, said she is happy with the direction that Princeton voters chose to go with their affirmative vote. The results, she said, “showed the desire of our citizens and the direction they want or city to grow. I am beyond elated that that Princeton finally has the capacity to grow into the city it was always destined to be.”  

Chacon gave credit to the citizens committee that crafted the charter, which she said, “worked tirelessly and laboriously to create a charter that will drive our city to success.”

City Manager Derek Borg echoed the mayor’s sentiment, saying that he is “obviously pleased” with the election result.

Borg said the city will undergo little transition from being a general law city to a home rule city. City council will have to canvass the vote and approve it, Borg said. “Then the charter takes effect immediately.”  Due to delays by Collin County election processing, city council will call a special meeting to canvass the results as soon as required information is received from the county.

The charter, he said, “is going to make it better for the public. If they want to enact an ordinance or seek a change in an ordinance, this will enable them to do it. They will have the power to do something where they had none before.”

Borg also noted that the charter adds two members to the city council, which will occur at the city’s next municipal election, set for November 2023. The council will comprise seven council members plus the mayor after the next election.

The city conducted four previous elections seeking to approve a home-rule charter. All four of those efforts failed, with the results attributed to opposition from those living outside the city limits. Residents expressed concern over Princeton’s annexation policies. The 2017 Texas Legislature removed that concern by approving a law that said property owners needed to approve a city’s request to annex their property.

Chacon, who said she “cried a couple of times” while the returns were coming in, said that “to see this effort finally come to fruition, well, I just cannot express how grateful I am.” Chacon said she has been meeting with city staff members to brief them on possible changes in the “functionality of our government.”

The charter election drew a total of 4,044 ballots cast in the city. Of that total, 2,757 residents favored the city charter, with 1,787 residents voting against it.

The other big election in Princeton on Nov. 8 involved the election of two members to the Princeton Independent School District Board of Trustees. In that contest, voters chose two newcomers to join the board. They are Julia Schmoker and John Campbell. Schmoker finished first among the four candidates, with Campbell edging out incumbent trustee Starla Sharpe for second place; the top two-vote-getters were elected to the Princeton ISD board. Tim Tidwell finished fourth in the field.

The Princeton ISD election drew 8,543 total votes. Schmoker garnered 31% of the total, or 2,620 votes. Campbell finished second with 26%, or 2,269 votes. Sharpe finished in third place, with 24.6% of the vote, or 2,104 ballots cast. Tim Tidwell finished fourth at 18%, or 1,550 votes.

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