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 V.18 No.39 | September 24 - 30, 2009 

Feature

Propositions

In 2008, the City Council passed an ordinance to review the city charter. From that review, the Council presented 10 recommendations to the mayor that would amend the charter. The mayor vetoed all the amendments, but the Council overrode his veto in August. The result is that the voting public now gets to decide on the amendments individually in this election. Here's what they are:

Proposition 1: Yes

"Amending the city charter to provide a new section listing and briefly summarizing all of the provisions in the city charter that govern elections."

We can't find anything wrong with clarifying the language in the city charter. As it stands, the aforementioned provisions are tossed all over the charter; this would tell people where to find them as well as provide an overall summary.

Proposition 2: Yes

"Amending the city charter to provide that the salaries of the mayor and city councilors shall be determined by a Citizens' Independent Salary Commission appointed by the City's Accountability in Government Committee."

As we said in the intro to this guide, a raise could really flesh out the candidate field by welcoming more than only those who can afford to work full-time for $10,940.80 a year. Right now, voters decide on raises, but few probably know how severely this limits their options. That's why an independent salary commission is necessary.

Proposition 3: Yes

"Amending the city charter to provide that the city clerk shall have a term that coincides with the term of the mayor and that the clerk shall only be removed earlier upon a finding of cause made both by the mayor and six city councilors. Requiring six city councilors to confirm the city clerk's appointment by the mayor. Clarifying that the city attorney, chief administrative officer and deputy administrative officers but not department heads are appointed subject to the advice and consent of the City Council and cannot serve for more than 45 days without their names being submitted to the City Council for confirmation."

That's a mouthful. Basically, Prop. 3 gives the Council some authority over the hiring and firing of the city clerk. As things stand, the mayor appoints the clerk. With cronyism rampant in our state, a more open and equitable hiring process for this important election-related position is a good thing.

Proposition 4: Yes

"Amending the process to amend the city charter by: fixing the number of signatures to petition for a change in the charter at 20 percent of the number of voters in the last four regular municipal elections; requiring the city attorney to review any proposed petition; requiring approval of six city councilors to propose a Council-initiated amendment to the city charter; requiring the City Council to hold at least two public hearings on the proposed amendment; requiring the ballot on a proposed amendment to the city charter to contain a summary of the proposed amendment reviewed by the city attorney for accuracy; allowing the city clerk to correct errors and omissions in the city charter and delete provisions declared to be illegal."

There are two ways to change the city charter. A citizen can petition, or the Council can amend it. This proposition clarifies some of those procedures. It also says two-thirds of the Council must approve a proposed amendment. It's good to nail down procedure so lengthy disputes don't suck up a lot of time and energy, as they can when rules are nebulous.

Proposition 5: Yes

"Amending the budget process to provide that the mayor prepares the biennial capital improvements budget for submission to the Council. Setting specific dates for City Council action on the mayor's annually proposed operating budget."

This proposition may come directly from a dispute about the capital budget that took place over the summer and almost landed the Council and Mayor Martin Chavez in court. The mayor said the Council missed its deadline and its version of the capital budget was invalid. Firming up those action dates is a good way to avoid this mess in the future.

Proposition 6: Yes

"Amending the city charter to provide that enforcement of the open and ethical elections code shall be a civil process conducted by the Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices rather than a criminal process conducted by the city attorney."

It's not clear to us why this was considered a criminal process overseen by a busy city attorney to begin with.

Proposition 7: Yes

"Amending the city charter by adding a new article providing that the City Council is the city's ultimate planning and zoning authority, including the adoption and interpretation of the comprehensive plan and the capital improvement plan. The Council is also the city's ultimate authority with respect to interpretation of adopted plans, ordinances and individual cases. The mayor is responsible for overseeing the implementation, enforcement and administration of land use plans."

This is yet another amendment that dilutes some of the mayor's power. The council is the planning authority, Prop. 7 says, and the mayor is the enforcer. Works for us.

Proposition 8: Yes

"Amending the city charter by adding a new article providing that the City Council shall by ordinance establish a process for addressing disputes between the City Council and mayor over their respective duties under the charter. That process shall include the creation of a three-member committee to resolve allegations of a violation; one member appointed by the Council, one member appointed by the mayor and the third member appointed by the first two."

Can you tell how strained relations have been between our Council and mayor? Still, Prop. 8 creates an avenue for the two entities to settle arguments without involving expensive lawyers. Who pays for all that legal help? You, taxpayer. So if the politicians can settle it among arbiters, all the better and cheaper for the rest of us.

Proposition 9: Yes

"Amending the city charter to provide that the petition to become a candidate for mayor requires the signatures of 3,000 registered city voters and to become a candidate for City Council requires the signatures of 500 registered voters residing in the district which the person desires to represent."

This proposition again seeks to make the rules regarding candidacy for city office less wishy-washy. The way it works now is candidates have to gather signatures from a percentage of voters in their districts.

Proposition 10: Yes

"Amending the city charter to provide that the city attorney shall have a term that coincides with the term of the mayor and that the city attorney shall only be removed earlier upon a finding of cause made both by the mayor and six city councilors. Requiring six city councilors to confirm the city attorney's appointment by the Mayor."

Like Prop. 3 does with the city clerk, this gives the Council some say in the hiring and firing of the city attorney. It makes the hiring process more transparent and allows councilors to fire the city attorney if two-thirds of the Council agrees.

 
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