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More comments on the proposed City Charter (item H2 on 27 March 2018 agenda)

From: domainremoved <Steve>
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2018 02:09:04 -0700

To Mayor Ohtaki and Council Members Keith, Mueller, Carlton, and Cline
Cc: City Attorney McClure

While I am pleasantly surprised to see that my correspondence of 13
March 2018 is included in your agenda packet, along with my proposed
draft charter, I must respond to the City Attorney's concern that the
provision stating “Except as expressly set forth in this charter, the
general law set forth in the Constitution of the State of California and
the laws of the State of California shall govern the operations of the
City of Menlo Park” "appears to nullify all charter power and a court
could find that Menlo Park’s charter was illusory".

I did not invent the concept of a two-article charter. I modeled mine on
the two-article charter adopted by Orange County in March 2002, written
so as to prevent a Democratic Governor from filling an anticipated
vacancy in the predominantly (if not completely) Republican Board of
Supervisors. (While Boards of Supervisors, similar to City Councils, are
nominally non-partisan, the individuals holding those seats often have
party affiliations.)

Prior to the adoption of its charter, Orange County was a general law
county, and vacancies on the Board of Supervisors of general law
counties, at least at that time, were filled by appointment by the
Governor. In 2002 Supervisor Todd Spitzer was running for election to
the State Assembly and was anticipated to win. To prevent then-Governor
Gray Davis from possibly appointing a Democrat to the Board, Orange
County adopted a charter that provided for filling vacancies via either
a special election or appointment by the Board itself. It explicitly
left everything else to the general laws of the State of California.

For reference, I am attaching a copy of the Orange County Charter that I
downloaded in January 2012. (Article III was added in 2008. At least
four more articles have been added since I downloaded the attached
copy.) You'll note that it contains the provision that the City Attorney
finds problematic. As far as I am aware, no court has found the Orange
County charter "illusory". That they have continued to add articles to
the charter since its adoption lends support that it is not "illusory".

I also want you to consider how you will effect the passage of a
charter. While the City Council (with or without the help of staff) will
write the argument in favor of the ballot measure, as well as the
rebuttal to the argument against, no City funds can be spent on the
campaign for the charter itself. If you want an "enabling" charter to
pass, you (as individuals) will have to form, or convince others to
form, a campaign committee that can raise funds to campaign for the
charter. While staff may prefer to see an "enabling" charter on the
ballot, they cannot campaign for it on City time. (Of course, they are
free to contribute their own money to a campaign committee.) If citizen
groups opposed to an "enabling" charter organize a campaign committee
that raises funds to campaign against the charter, you will face an
uphill battle.

Also consider that, as a rough rule of thumb, a third of voters vote
"No" on all ballot measures as a matter of general principle. You will
have to convince at least three-fourths of the remaining voters to vote

In addition, the more provisions you put into an "enabling" charter, the
more reasons you give a voter to vote "No". That is simple psychology.

If, however, you put a simple two-article charter on the ballot, you may
find citizen groups supportive of its passage that will do the work you
cannot do (except as individuals) to convince voters to vote "Yes".

Finally, I suggest you seriously consider the other communications you
have received concerning an "enabling" charter versus a two-article
charter when you decide what sort of charter has the best likelihood of

I hope you find this helpful.

--Steve Chessin
President, Californians for Electoral Reform
1426 Lloyd Way, Mountain View, CA 94040
(408)-276-3222(w), (650)-962-8412(h)

Received on Mon Mar 26 2018 - 02:11:19 PDT

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