Monday marks the beginning of early voting for municipal elections in the region.
In Bryan, the two city council seats are uncontested, as Art Hughes will all but assuredly join the council in Single Member District 5, and Mike Southerland is a likely lock to retain the At Large 6 seat.
What may be most interesting for the city elections is one of five charter amendments up for a vote. While four are largely procedural or minor issues, one surrounds a topic that divided the current council in a public row.
Proposition 4 would amend the charter to make it so two councilmembers at minimum would be needed to place an item on the council's agenda. Also, future councils would not be able to change that number if the amendment -- one that was petitioned for placement on the ballot by citizens -- is approved.
It was in August that the council voted 5-2 to change the rules so a minimum of three people would be needed to put an item on the agenda. The five in favor -- Mayor Mark Conlee and Councilmembers Paul Madison, Jason Bienski, Ann Horton and Ben Hardeman -- claimed the opposing two were wasting council and staff time by putting minor items up for discussion. The five also said the two in opposition were failing to communicate with their fellow councilmembers, causing a rift.
Those two, Southerland and Al Saenz, had claimed the move from two to three was a power play by an aligned political majority to silence them and the citizens they represent.
"This policy change shows great disrespect for the citizens and the electorate," Southerland said in a late July council meeting. "Suppressing ideas will keep our city in second place to College Station for a very long time."
Saenz went on to say minority issues would not make their way to the council's agenda with three people needed to sign off on an item. Saenz and Madison are the minorities on the council. Those in favor the change to three said Saenz was incorrect, and that he hadn't brought any issues to them for discussion.
The verbal sparing over the course of council meetings where this was discussed spawned outrage from commenters at KBTX.com's stories on the issue. Many voiced displeasure with the public fight, while others took sides on the issue itself.
May 9 and in early voting starting Monday, Bryan residents will have the chance to take sides by casting a vote.
BRYAN CITY COUNCIL
At Large 6
Mike Southerland (I)
BRYAN SCHOOL BOARD
At Large 7
Merrill Green (I)
For more information on the elections in Bryan, click on the link below.