By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
Saturday, May 12 is Election Day, and from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., voters in the two aforesaid communities will decide eight races.
In San Benito, Place 3 City Commissioner Bill Elliott faces challenger JD Penny, while in the Pl. 4 race newcomers Joe D. Gonzalez and Gavino Sotelo vie for the seat to be vacated by current Commissioner Celeste Z. Sanchez.
Elliott is a one-term incumbent seeking reelection while JD Penny has long served on various city boards and in different capacities. Gonzalez is currently employed as the Region 13 Professional Educator Consultant and is formerly the superintendent for the San Benito and Donna school districts; Sotelo serves the Laguna Madre Water District as its general manager and was once employed as the first assistant city manager in Dallas.
Seventeen amendments to the city charter, as approved by the City Commission and recommended by a review committee tasked with as much, are also on the ballot.
Voters can vote in favor of or against the following:
1. Should Article III, Section 3.02 (b) of the existing City Charter be amended to remove from the eligibility requirements for holding the office of City Commissioner or Mayor that such person shall have paid all taxes due to the City of San Benito and be free from debt to said City?
2. Should Article III, Section 3.02 (b) of the existing City Charter be amended by adding to the eligibility requirements for holding the office of City Commissioner or Mayor that such person must reside in the City during his or her term of office?
3. Should Article III, Section 3.03 of the existing City Charter be amended by removing from the express powers of the Mayor the power to appoint with the advice and consent of the City Commission the members of the citizen advisory boards and commission?
4. Should Article III, Section 3.03 of the existing City Charter be amended to provide that the City Commission shall elect from among its members a Mayor Pro Tem in May of each year?
5. Should Article III, Section 3.03 of the existing City Charter be amended to provide that a vacancy in the office of the Mayor shall be filled in accordance with the provisions of this Charter for the filling of vacancies?
6. Should Article III, Section 3.06 (b) (3) of the existing City Charter be amended to provide that one of the grounds for forfeiture of office by a member of the City Commission shall be conviction, while in office, by a trial court of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, however, such person shall take a leave of office pending appeal?
7. Should Article III, Section 3.06 (b) of the existing City Charter be amended by adding that forfeiture shall be declared and enforced by a majority vote of the City Commission?
8. Should Article III, Section 3.06 (c) of the existing City Charter be amended to provide in case of a vacancy in the City Commission that the City Commission shall call a special election to fill the vacancy to be held not sooner than ninety (90) days and not later than one hundred twenty (120) days following the occurrence of the vacancy and to be otherwise governed by law?
9. Should Article III, Section 3.07 of the existing City Charter be amended by adding in connection with a public hearing demanded by a Commission member charged with conduct constituting grounds for forfeiture of office, that such member shall have the right to have process issued to compel the attendance of witnesses, who shall be required to give testimony, if such member so elects?
10. Should Article III, Section 3.07 of the existing City Charter be amended by adding that a full and complete statement of the reasons for such forfeiture, if the members office be forfeited, together with the findings of facts as made by the City Commission, shall be filed by the City Commission in the public archives of the City, and shall become a matter of public record?
11. Should the first paragraph of Article III, Section 3.12 (b) of the existing City Charter be amended to provide that except as otherwise prescribed in this Charter, an Ordinance shall not be passed at the meeting of the City Commission at which it is first introduced, but it may then be considered and discussed, and shall be considered for adoption at a subsequent meeting of the City Commission, when it may be considered and a vote taken on the question of its adoption?
12. Should Article III, Section 3.12 (d) of the existing City Charter, providing for the publication of the caption or title and penalties of every Ordinance within seven (7) days after passage, be amended by deleting it entirely?
13. Should Article V, Section 5.07 of the existing City Charter be amended by adding that except where state or federal law provides to the contrary, each member of the City Commission shall be entitled to nominate a person to serve on established Boards or Commissions, subject to the approval of the City Commission?
14. Should the second paragraph of Article VII, Section 7.09 of the existing City Charter be amended to provide that a petition filed with the City Secretary, demanding the question of removing an elective office or officers be submitted to the electors, must be signed by a minimum of thirty-five percent (35%) or five hundred (500), whichever is greater, of those voters who actually voted in the election when the elective officer was last elected to his or her current office?
15. Should the second paragraph of Article VII, Section 7.09 of the existing City Charter be amended by adding that if an officer the subject of the recall petition was not elected into office by public election, then the recall petition must be signed by a minimum of six hundred (600) of those registered to vote at the last regular election?
16. Should the sixth paragraph of Article VII, Section 7.09 of the existing City Charter be amended to provide that should a majority of the votes cast at such recall of the officer named on the ballot, regardless of any technical defects in the Petition, City Commission shall immediately declare his or her office vacant and such vacancy shall be filled in accordance with the provisions of, this Charter for filling of vacancies, and should a majority of the votes cast at such recall election be against the recall of the officer named on the ballot, such officer shall continue in office for the remainder of his term, subject to recall as before?
17. Should the eighth paragraph of Article VII, Section 7.09 of the existing City Charter be amended to provide that in case the City Commission shall fail or refuse to receive the recall Petition, order such recall election, or discharge any other duties with reference to such recall, then the County Judge of Cameron County shall discharge any of such duties herein provided to be discharged by the City Commission?
Meanwhile, ballots cast during early voting in the city election, which was held from April 30-May 8, were over 400 votes fewer than last year’s numbers. In 2012, 761 voters cast their ballots in early voting while 1,271 were cast the year prior.
The San Benito CISD election saw 1,321 ballots cast during its early voting period, just 28 less than last year.
Running for reelection to the school board is longtime Pl. 1 incumbent Bob Tumberlinson, who faces Fatima Huerta, a newcomer who was unsuccessful in last year’s bid for the school board.
Seeking the Pl. 2 seat to be vacated by Oscar De La Fuente, Jr. are Anna Cruz and Anna Llanes. In the Pl. 3 race, incumbent and Board President Yliana G. Rodriguez is set to face opponent Wilma Garza Smetter.
Sample ballots in both the City of San Benito and San Benito CISD races can be seen here. Polling locations are available below:
• Precinct 17 – La Encantada Elementary School, 35001 FM 1577, San Benito, Texas
• Precincts *18, *19, *21, *22, *40, *50 – Community Building, 210 E. Heywood, San Benito, Texas
• Precinct 44 – Community Building, 210 E. Heywood, San Benito, Texas
• Precinct 23 – Rangerville Elementary School, 17558 Landrum Park Road, San Benito Texas
• Precincts 25, 88 – Los Indios School, 5th Street and Heywood Los Indios, Texas
• Precincts *43, *91 – Fred Booth Elementary School, 705 Zaragosa, San Benito, Texas
• Precinct 51 – La Paloma School, 35076 Main St., San Benito, Texas
• Precincts 89, 90 – Fire Station, 1201 S. Sam Houston, San Benito, Texas
*Indicates polling locations specifically for the City of San Benito general elections.
Over in Rio Hondo, running for re-election for Commissioner Pl. 1 is Gustavo “Gus” Olivares. Also running for said position is challenger and former City Commissioner Ray Bustamante.
The incumbent for Commissioner Pl. 3 is G.L. “Jerry” Hartzog, who faces challenger Brianna L. Ortega.
Pl. 5 incumbent Arnulfo “Kitter” Huerta is running for re-election against challenger and former Commissioner Joseph “Joe” Lopez.
Citizens of Rio Hondo can vote at the Rio Hondo Public Library, located at 121 N. Arroyo Blvd.
An election has not been scheduled for the Rio Hondo ISD Board of Trustees as board members’ terms are not up for reelection until 2013.