Efforts to ask voters to change Tucson's City Charter on the November ballot are gathering momentum.

Critics, spearheaded by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, believe the city isn't exactly a model of efficiency and needs some tweaking.

On Wednesday they staged a presentation of the four main City Charter changes they're seeking in front of about 100 young professionals.

The forum was a dress rehearsal for a much larger event at the Tucson Convention Center Friday, when organizers are having a communitywide meeting to rally public support for getting the City Council to put their proposals on the ballot.

The changes include:

• Making the mayor and council full-time positions and increasing their current salaries of $42,000 and $24,000, respectively.

• Giving the city manager greater hire-and-fire authority over some top city department heads, and giving those department heads more say over their immediate subordinates.

• Increasing the number of wards as the population increases.

• Giving the mayor a vote on some things he's now excluded from, such as the firing of the city manager, which only the other council members can vote on now.

Backers are pitching the changes as cost-neutral, saying the larger salaries can be absorbed within council offices by reducing the number of council aides.

Similar changes have been considered several times over the past 30 years, but never made it to the ballot or were rejected by voters.

Leadership Council president Ron Shoopman said he thinks there's a better chance now. "There's a feeling that the city of Tucson could run better, and it is not in our best interest to blame individuals for why it's not running better - but to look at the structure of the 80-year charter and see if there are deficiencies in the system that could be addressed.

"Now we're in an economic downtown, but we will recover. And we have to be positioned as a city for that recovery."

Reaction was mixed at a meeting of the Tucson Young Professionals.

Ben Korn, 32, who is in sales, said he agrees "things need to move in a more efficient manner through the city," and raising salaries may expand the pool of candidates. "I don't know that it's perfect yet, but there's been a lot of study and history that has gone into this deal."

But Michael Cole, a control engineer for public media, remained skeptical about the cost. "The panelists are saying there won't be additional costs because they'll shift money around, but what money will they be shifting? You're hearing the City Council already saying they have no money and they're forced to raise garbage fees."

Since the council must decide by early July to make the November ballot, organizers hope to have the package finalized by May to bring to the council.

Contact Rhonda Bodfield at 573-4243 or rbodfield@azstarnet.com