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Getting started with Charter Commissions & Related

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2018 15:40:29 -0700

Hello Council,

Thank you for your unanimous decision to NOT place a charter measure on the
Nov 6, 2018 ballot. I appreciated your thoughtful discussion and your
willingness to reconsider the matter

As a next step, you seemed to agree with Vice Mayor Mueller’s request that
Council take further action this year. That could include forming a charter
commission. I’ve researched California Government Code
and it appears to me that members of a Charter Commission need to be
approved via the voters. That could be during a special election or a
regular election. Naturally, I could be mistaken and Council might be able
to appoint such a Commission.

I also agree with Mayor Ohtaki’s comment that there are residents who would
like to serve on a charter committee. As this is a new process for most of
us, I’m writing to send links to materials that I’ve found particularly
helpful in my own education process:

1. Guide for Charter Commissions.
Sixth Edition. This thoughtfully written guide is an excellent resource.
While more focused on municipalities desiring to change an existing
charter, it’s helpful for cities newly considering becoming a charter city.
I especially liked the Public Outreach section.

2. *Model City Charter.
Edition. Provides a helpful menu of possible provisions that could be
included in a charter as well as commentary on them. Also provides useful

3. Comparative Information on City Charters from California’s Largest
Cities. <https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/15_01rev_150114.pdf>
I have found no similar-style document on charters from smaller cities.
Developing such a comparative report could be a useful next step. I link to
it here as an example.

A right kind of charter could help MP to be more effectively governed.
However, more is needed!

We also need a citywide shared vision, strategic plan and a set of core
values to guide how we go about achieving our vision. Residents need to be
deeply involved in developing these.

The only related items that I’ve seen are inadequate. The City of Menlo
Park Values Statement
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/15836/OUR-values?bidId=> at
the HR site seems aimed mostly at staff and business interests. I don't
think the public was involved in developing them either. The MP mission
the City Council procedure manual) is almost identical to the one in the City
of Oxnard’s
manual. While perhaps at some prior point our mission was developed as part
of an authentic community engagement process, it likely has been a while
since it was developed. Instead, MP needs an updated mission that logically
stems from a citywide shared vision, core values and strategic plan --
unique to Menlo Park.

On a related note, I’ve seen the term “the community’s vision” (or similar)
in staff reports, and the recent budget document. However, I’ve yet to see
actual specifics in the form of a written vision statement. This troubles
me as the phrase is used to justify the decisions made, or the
recommendations detailed, in the reports. Unfortunately, the less civically
engaged resident might accept the assertions at face value -- thinking
that he or she just missed the engagement process. While staff writing
these reports may sincerely think that the content truly responds to the
“community’s vision,” it’s time to actually develop a written vision
statement based on authentic (and widespread) resident involvement.

For now, I recommend that staff refrain from using the “community’s vision”
phrase unless they also supply actual specifics. Details of the community
engagement process (that led to this type of assertion) is also needed.

Not having a shared vision, strategic plan, and core values – creates
problems in MP. We have multiple individual plans, but no overall
strategic plan. (Individual plans may also lack an authentic engagement
process.) The lack of a shared vision, strategic plan and core values has
led to, at times, reactive-decision making, decision churn, and late-night
Council meetings. I’ve also seen Council become the “integration point”
for projects that would have arrived at your docket in a more “baked” form
if MP had had a strategic plan in place.

I hope that Council will decide to institute a formal visioning and
strategic planning process at your January planning meeting. However, there
are low-key, low-cost ways to get started earlier as part of the effort
related to becoming a charter city. For example, you could start to hold
“listening” or “dialogue” sessions with the public on the topic of their
vision for MP. Naturally, someone would need to take notes or otherwise
capture the ideas. There are other low-key ways to get started such as an
online survey mechanism. I suspect that residents will have other
suggestions as to what could be started, now. The important thing would be
to start!

Lynne Bramlett

Received on Wed Aug 15 2018 - 15:39:56 PDT

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