City Council needs six votes to override mayoral Drug War veto
by David Crowder
Posted on January 8, 2009
Overriding Mayor John Cook's veto will require six votes, not seven as some thought, when City Council reconsiders a resolution on U.S. drug policies and the cartel war in Juarez that Cook vetoed this week.
The council's eight district representatives approved the resolution unanimously, and that means three of them would have to change their votes and support the mayor to sustain his veto. The item is on Tuesday's agenda.
The city's Border Relations Committee wrote and presented the resolution to express solidarity with Juarez and support for funding and enforcement of laws against gun-running, money laundering and human trafficking. It also called for more drug prevention and rehabilitation programs in the United States.
But it was an amendment to the resolution added by city Rep. Beto O'Rourke calling for a congressional debate over drug legalization that captured local headlines, which soon went national.
Thursday, he asked that the resolution be placed on Tuesday's agenda for reconsideration. But the El Paso City Charter states that the vetoed item should be sent back to the council automatically.
City Rep. Melina Castro has raised the question about why the city attorney's office didn't do that in a late agenda item of her own that the council will consider Tuesday.
The charter states, "If the mayor vetos the ordinance or resolution, reasons shall be set forth by the mayor in writing and the ordinance or resolution with those reasons shall be returned to the City Council."
Questions about how many votes it takes to override the mayor's veto led O'Rourke to pose the question to the city attorney's office, resulting in an answer that surprised some, including Cook.
In some matters calling for a super-majority vote of three-quarters of the City Council members, the mayor is counted as the ninth council member, which means those items require seven votes to pass.
But that is not the case when it comes to overriding a mayoral veto, Assistant City Attorney Laura Gordon said today. That is covered by the City Charter, and it requires a three-quarters vote by the eight district representatives, or six votes, to override a veto.
"My impression was the council included the mayor, and a super majority of the council is 75 percent, and that is over six," Cook said.
Background on the issue
-- Cook's veto not supported by committee that created the drug war, Juarez solidarity resolution, by David Crowder: "My intention is to ask that this be on the Tuesday agenda, as adopted, for reconsideration, and we'll just see how the votes fall." -- city Rep. Beto O'Rourke on putting the vetoed resolution before City Council next week. Posted on January 7, 2009
-- Mayor vetos unanimous resolution urging Washington to consider drug legalization, by David Crowder: "Legalizing the types of drugs that are being smuggled across the border is not an effective way to combat the violence in Mexico, and I would not support efforts in Congress that would seek to do so.” -- U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes' comment on the council's resolution. Posted on January 6, 2009
-- I'm on your side, even though your ideas about the Drug War are stupid, by David Karlsruher: I'm just asking for some clarity here. People want to stop the drug wars in Mexico, but all I hear for a solution is to get more Americans hooked the cartel's top selling products. Pardon me if I'm not buying it. Posted on January 8, 2009
-- Former mayor to City Council: Stay the course on drug resolution, by Bill Tilney: As a former mayor, I understand the position taken by Mayor John Cook, when he decided to veto the resolution at the last moment. With that, the council did the right thing; now that you have gained the attention of the national media, don't drop the ball. Posted on January 8, 2009
-- Let's talk about the Drug War, by Sito Negron: Mayor John Cook's veto was everything that's wrong with the public policy debate on legalizing or decriminalizing or changing the focus of the nearly 40-year War on Drugs. Posted on January 7, 2009
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