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Charter City - Position Clarification and Concerns

From: domainremoved <Jennifer>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2018 12:54:04 -0700

Dear City Council Members,

Menlo Park Residents for Good Governance has been closely following the
Charter City discussion and we would like to clarify our position and share
some concerns.

*Why Charter City*
The recent public interest in becoming a Charter City has to do with
electoral process. In order to pursue alternative modes of voting (i.e.,
Ranked Choice and/or a hybrid method), Menlo Park must transition from a
General Law City to a Charter City.

*Why Charter City Now*
A city may only become a Charter City during even year November elections.
If Menlo Park misses the window to become a Charter City in November 2018,
we will need to wait until November 2020.

*Concern with the City's Proposed Enabling Charter*
While the initial Enabling Charter would need to be adopted by voter
approval, the charter, however, will give the City Council the authority to
“implement” municipal affairs powers granted by the charter. This
"implementation" of municipal affairs could range in issues from electoral
process to land use and contracts, among other issues. And once again,
while the original Enabling Charter must be adopted by voter approval,
subsequent "implementations" can be enacted by the City Council via an

There are two main concerns with this approach:

1. While Menlo Park Residents for Good Governance appreciates the work that
has gone into considering a charter, our intention was to provide
flexibility for the City's electoral process, NOT grant the City Council
the right to enact ordinances that will allow a broad range of municipal
affairs to be implemented. Any changes to municipal affairs should go to
the voters to be decided, not enacted by an ordinance.

2. By leaving the Enabling Charter as a "shell", voters (for good reason)
will be suspicious about which municipal affairs the City is intending to
implement/modify. It is highly likely that this Enabling Charter may be
viewed as a Trojan Horse and voted down.

*Preferred Action*
Rather than pursuing the Enabling Charter being proposed by Staff, we would
like to see:

1. Per Steve Chessin's suggestion, a 2-article charter including 1) the
soon-to-be decided districting plan and 2) everything else covered by
general law.

2. A clarification that rather than allowing the City Council to
"implement" municipal affairs via an ordinance, that any modifications
would need to be amendments to the charter and voted on by the public,
after appropriate public input.

We thank you for your continued and thoughtful engagement on this topic.


*Jen Wolosin*
Menlo Park Residents for Good Governance
Received on Tue Mar 13 2018 - 13:04:48 PDT

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