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Re: Comments on the proposed City Charter (item L2 on 13 March 2018 agenda)

From: domainremoved <Steve>
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2018 08:27:14 -0700

I had incorrect sequencing in my draft charter. A corrected version is

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

On 3/13/18 12:12 AM, Steve Chessin wrote:
> To Mayor Ohtaki and Council Members Keith, Mueller, Carlton, and Cline
> Cc: City Attorney McClure
> At your meeting of 13 February 2018 you directed the City Attorney to
> "proceed with placing an enabling charter on November 2018 ballot and
> set specific guidelines for instances when the City Council is
> considering legislation that would vary from existing State statutes".
> I am concerned that you may submit to the voters a charter that gives
> you broad but vague powers that the voters will reject. The example of
> the City of Davis, a general law city similar to Menlo Park, is
> instructive.
> Two years after students at UC Davis voted in 2002 to change the way
> they elect their student government to use the single transferable vote
> (STV) form of ranked choice voting (RCV), the City of Davis appointed a
> committee to examine if they should use a similar system to elect the
> City Council. They recommended "yes", and an advisory question was put
> on the November 2004 ballot, asking "Should the City of Davis consider
> adopting choice voting, also known as instant runoff or preference
> voting, as the system to elect City Council members?" [STV was called
> "choice voting" back then.]
> Measure L passed 54.7% to 45.3%. Since a general law city cannot use
> STV, the City Council appointed a subcommittee to draft a charter so
> that they could. But instead of a two-article charter that effectively
> said "The City Council will be elected using choice voting, everything
> else is covered by the general laws of the State of California", they
> wrote an "enabling charter" (although they didn't call it that) that
> didn't even mention how the City Council should be elected. (See
> attached for what I believe was the final report of the subcommittee.)
> The charter was "broad and allows for maximum flexibility" (page 11-16;
> PDF page 16). It was placed on the November 4, 2008, ballot.
> Needless to say, the voters rejected it. The citizens of Davis weren't
> willing to buy a pig in a poke.
> My conversations with various citizens of Menlo Park have led me to
> believe that there is an undercurrent of mistrust with the City Council,
> that there is a suspicion that the Council will give itself the
> authority to dictate Menlo Park's electoral system without requiring a
> vote of the people, as well as other powers that the citizens may not
> approve of. If you do that, I predict that there will be vigorous
> opposition to such a charter and it will lose at the ballot box.
> To avoid that fiasco, I recommend the following: At a future meeting you
> will be deciding whether to adopt a plan of five districts or a plan of
> six districts plus a separately-elected mayor. Whatever plan you adopt
> should also become the first article of your charter. The second article
> would specify that everything else would be covered by general law. An
> example of such a charter is attached.
> Such a simple charter would be adopted easily by the City's voters, as
> it would be completely transparent. All the City would be doing is
> codifying whatever districting plan you adopt. Once adopted, at future
> elections you could propose subsequent amendments to address other
> issues, after appropriate public input. This could include changing the
> electoral system, or giving the City Council additional powers, but even
> if those changes are rejected by the voters, you would still be a
> charter city.
> I hope you find this useful.
> Sincerely,
> --Steve Chessin
> President, Californians for Electoral Reform
> www.cfer.org
> steve.chessin_at_(domainremoved)
> 1426 Lloyd Way, Mountain View, CA 94040
> (408)-276-3222(w), (650)-962-8412(h)
> --Steve

Received on Tue Mar 13 2018 - 08:29:40 PDT

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