The Odessa City Council voted Tuesday for the second and final time to call a November election that will allow Odessans to decide whether to add a new council member and give the mayor a vote, allaying worry that council members would refuse even though state law required them to do it.
Further conflict appeared likely over the election. Arguments continue over how a charter amendment that would restructure the board is presented to voters. A group opposing the changes has claimed they would weaken minority voting strength, which is disputed by supporters.
But the Tuesday approval by the board meant that the thousands of Odessa voters who sought to force the election in recent months will get a chance to have their say on the changes to the City Council.
“There is going to be a huge response to this vote, and I’m looking forward to that,” said District 1 Councilman Malcolm Hamilton, who has opposed the changes, in an interview with reporters after the meeting.
City Attorney Larry Long has also said voters should be able to elect a new councilman at the same time they vote on whether to create the position.
City officials say the election, forced by a petition signed by Odessa voters, will be the first of its kind.
The petition drive began after three council members combined in December to shoot down a request to voluntarily call a May election. At least 2,757 Odessa voters signed it — enough under state law to force the council to call the election.
But the same 3-2 majority — Hamilton, District 3 Councilwoman Barbara Graff and District 5 Councilman Filiberto Gonzales — succeeded on Feb. 13 in denying petitioners the May election they sought.
District 2 Councilman Dewey Bryant and District 4 Councilman Mike Gardner had pushed for calling a May election in a single vote ahead of the deadline under state law put the issue on the ballot. The council has called elections that way for years, and Gardner and Bryant argued there was nothing wrong about doing it the same way this time.
Ultimately, splitting along the same lines, the City Council voted 3-2 to pass a separate ordinance calling the November election. Board members changed their votes Tuesday in the second and final vote on that ordinance. But it still passed, 4-1.
Hamilton was the lone dissenting vote, switching his position to deny calling the November election. After the meeting, he declined to explain why but predicted a strong turnout in November.
“Let’s get it over with,” Hamilton said. “Let the citizens show exactly what they feel about what’s going on.”
Bryant and Gardner voted this time to call the November election. Gardner said after the meeting he wanted to ensure its passage.
“May is done and gone, so I wanted us to make sure we have one,” Gardner said.