President's Message (Arlene Ellis)|
Charter Commission Approves Ballot Submission of P&Z Changes (Astrid Monson)
Partly Published Letter (Astrid Monson)
Public Health Forum
Good to Hear from Marion Saunders (Marion Saunders)
Forty proposed amendments got the final vote of the Charter Commission-to appear on the ballot in November after screening of the 167 original proposals as well as dozens of supplementary issues introduced during the course of the Commission's meetings. Several preliminary votes were taken, rejected and approved issues reconsidered. It all ended on June 30th with a final vote on the tentatively approve proposal and a reconsideration of the issue of allowing the city prosecutor to appoint his administrative assistants. It had been narrowly rejected at the May 19th meeting by a vote of 6-7, but survived the final vote.
Leaque-Supported Proposals on Ballot
Excluding amendments to the planning and zoning section which Astride Monson discusses in a separate article, several amendments we testified in favor of adoption will be placed on the ballot: limiting the mayor to two consecutive terms, nonpartisan elections for our elected county officials, and allowing council members to abstain from voting on issues which involve direct personal financial interests.
On the last item, there is no mention of oral disclosure which we pushed, but the council will be allowed to adopt rules governing abstention from voting. If this amendment is adopted, our lobbying will move to the council floor.
The commission also voted to present the question of including at-large representatives to the voters. However, they had voted earlier to reject the proposal to increase the number of council members which left them with three options:
Many League-Opposed Proposals Rejected
Just as important as our effort to see our positions on local government adopted was our effort to kill some of the proposals.
A proposal called for a change in the basis in computing the number of signatures required on petitions for recall, charter amendments and initiative from "total votes cast" to "to total registered voters." City Clerk, Ray Pua, testified strongly for this change and suggested that the percentage requirement for recall be increased from the present 10% to 30%. Mr. Pua's reason for this change was that he did not feel that the registered voters who did not participate in past elections should be excluded. Using this same logic, it could be suggested that all citizens of voting age be used as the base.
At a full commission meeting on June 16 with only 8 commissioners present, 6 voted for the change of the basis and for a change in percentage requirement from 10% to 25% for a council member's recall. Commissioners Gary Slovin and Karen Ahn voted against this and the proposal failed.
The number requirement for petitions calling for impeachment of the mayor will be raised from the present 500 signatures to 5000 and that for a district council member from 500 to 1000 if voters approve. Impeachment of at-large council members will require petitions with 5000 signatures.
Other Rejected Proposals
Included in the 167 original proposals were a change to a full-time council, reversing of the 1990 charter amendment authorizing council to confirm city department heads, doing away with the mandatory 10-year review of the charter, required mayoral approval for all council-initiated amendments, and many many amendments for the section on neighborhood boards including one for the allocating of $100,000 to each neighborhood board for approved small neighborhood projects.
We sent copies of the proposals on the NB system to many League members who have NB experience, and the consensus was that the system be kept in its present form with some minor, changes. The final proposal that survived would require that 3 of the 9 members of the NB Commission have served previously on a NB for at least one full two-year term.
Many, many supplementary proposals were introduced later and some of them we testified against. There was the proposal to put a percentage cap on the annual increase in property taxes. We testified that such a cap should not be put in the charter but left to the council to make adjustments as the situations and conditions warrant. Such a cap, we argued, might lead to a greater reliance on the more regressive user fees. Another consideration, we felt, was the variation in the increase of property values in different areas. We have seen property values in certain areas of our county escalate in value out of proportion to that of other areas. Placing the same percentage caps on all properties would result in an unfair windfall for those whose properties escalate more in value.
We opposed the application of a single rate for all classes of property. This, we felt, would only result in an increase in taxes for residential owners.
A great disappointment was the rejection of referendum. It was given preliminary approval at a workshop in March, but rejected later. We objected to the lack of discussion on this. We acknowledged their right to change their minds, but we would have liked to hear their discussions of the different types of referendum and the arguments pro and con and the reasons for their rejection of referendum in general.
Even referendum for major capital improvement projects which had survived till nearly the end was rejected. We believe one of the problems was the difficulty of deciding where in the total planning and approval process to schedule the referendum as discussed at an earlier meeting.
Limits on Council-Initiated Amendments
We testified against placing limits on council's ability to propose charter amendments except for the twoyear period when the Charter Commission is preparing to place its amendments on the ballot. As proposed, the Commission amendment would require the mayor's approval for any council-initiated amendment "submitted to the electors at a general election immediately preceding or immediately following a general election at which a charter commission is authorized to submit its own proposals."
Publicity for Amendment Proposals
One of the strong agreements at our consensus meeting on our positions on local government was the need for more publicity on charter amendment proposals with the necessary explanations and pro and con arguments. All of this month the commission will be working on information to disseminate to the public and we'll try to get the rough drafts before the scheduled July 28th meeting which will be devoted to approval of this draft.
Evaluation of Amendment Process
One of our major purposes in monitoring the charter commission meetings is the evaluation of the process used in the review of the charter every ten years, from the method of selection of the commissioners to the public involvement during the process of review and the presentation of the proposed amendments to the public prior to election day. This will need to be done when the whole process ends and the voters make the final decisions in November.
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