Board of Aldermen to Discuss Charter City Survey, Future of Home Rule in Wentzville

City of Wentzville Sign

At this week’s meeting of the Wentzville Board of Aldermen, the board will discuss the results of a city-wide survey about pursuing home rule by creating and adopting a city charter.

Missouri law allows cities with a population of at least 5,000 to adopt the charter form of government. Wentzville, which is a fourth-class city, is required by state law to have either the mayor/board of aldermen form or the mayor/city administrator/aldermen form of government. Constitutional charter cities have fewer limitations, and can choose any form of government.

The city held a town hall meeting in January to present information about constitutional charters and home rule, and conducted a one-month survey to gauge citizen opinion.

The online version of the survey received just 78 responses, and 49 responses were received by mail to a total of 127 responses. The survey was distributed in hard copy via the The Vision and Noteworthy, and it was shared on social media several times.

Results for the first question (“I reviewed the information and I am in favor of the City further exploring a Home Rule Charter.”) were 55 percent yes and 45 percent no.

Results for the second question (“I would be interested in attending informational meetings about a Home Rule Charter.”) were 52 percent yes and 58 percent no.

Proponents of home rule say that a charter allows for more local control and flexibility. However, concerns have been raised by the board about the difficulty of finding citizens willing to sit on the charter commission and put in the amount of work that it will take to create a city charter.

More pros and cons are addressed in the Missouri Municipal League publication “A Model Charter for Missouri Cities: A Guide for City Charter Commissions in Missouri” by James E. Westbrook:

It is important to remember that while charter provisions can be changed only by a vote of the electorate, ordinances can be changed by a vote of the council. It can be difficult and expensive to amend a charter. On the other hand, some decisions about municipal government involve fundamental policy matters that should be decided by the people as a whole rather than their elected representatives on the council. It is the unenviable job of the charter commission to decide which issues should be decided by the electorate and which issues should be decided by the council.