The Charter Review Committee worked hard to attempt to update our city charter in what they say will bring it up to date. While it truly makes sense to take a look at the charter after a period of time (every 10 years probably is not too often), it is also a very important document that affects every citizen and we should be cautious when making these changes.
Kudos should go to the committee for their diligent and hard work!
All of this said, my thoughts concerning the recommended changes vary and I though perhaps I would share some thoughts. Of course it would be best for every voter to study each and every amendment thoroughly, but if you don’t have the time or just don’t want to at least attempt to understand what is being asked of us. My very first suggestion is that if the language is not perfectly clear to you and you just are not sure what is being asked of us in the changes, then vote “no” and request that the charter remain as it is. At least you know that it has served us fairly well since its original inception.
Let’s look at what is being asked:
A. Clarification and Update of City Charter: The committee says this just is clean up of some of the language and typos on the original. It makes no changes. A “yes” vote probably makes sense on this.
B. Council member term limits: This appears completely clear and doesn’t seem to have any confusing language. A “yes” vote makes sense here also.
C. Council member and chairman compensation: Two things bother me on this and that is the timing (we’re all suffering through the worst recession/depression that most of us have seen) and instead of just laying out the numbers and telling everyone the council members and chairman would go from $6,000 and $9,000 to $9,000 and $12,000, they put an ambiguous formula out there that hides the actual numbers. Vote “no” on this.
D. Duty of city manager to communicate budget deviations: This says the city manager must let City Council know of deviations in the budget of $250,000 or more. Again, if we want fiscal responsibility it would seem we need to look at the smaller numbers also. Five $50,000 variations would equal $250,000 also and we should be asking questions. A “no” vote makes sense here also.
E. City Council directed investigations: Here is one of those amendments that I don’t understand. If the City Council doesn’t agree with a decision that the city manager has made, they can remedy the problem quickly. They vote to let him go and replace him. Again, a “no” vote makes sense here.
F. Operating expenditure limitation (Modified spending cap): This is probably the most important item being voted on. When we voted for city hood, the spending cap was the foundation! Read this and you can see how confusing and tricky this is. Research has been done by Amadeo Patricca (a respected city financial watchdog) and this is just not good for us! This is definitely a “no” vote!
G. Ordinance requirement for expenditures exceeding $12 million: Again this is a little confusing as to understanding why $12 million is the right number. It would be better had the number been much smaller. A “no” vote probably makes sense here.
This is only one person’s take on these issues, but they are very important. Please don’t just arbitrarily pass them all without putting some thought into them. Our charter has served us well so far. Minor tweaking can be helpful, but major changes should be questioned.