Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Note to Self: Do Your Research

Mikaela says:
Damn. I am a bad voter! I did not look at the sample ballot or read the League's guide, so I was unprepared to vote on the proposed amendments to the City Charter, all of which passed with or without my uneducated vote.

(All the bonds passed, too, including affordable housing - yay! Does this surprise anyone else? I hear all the bonds typically pass, but when I vote, I picture all those pinched Republicans saying, "More money for libraries, community centers? Why I should I pay for those?")

Google leads me to believe no one's blogged about the story behind the charter amendments in depth, either. It's up a planning student's alley (hint, hint, kids), but I feel like there's a story there that I want to know, so maybe I should get off my you-know-what and have a little look-sie.

Here's where the trail is leading...

Phew! That was exhausting. I'm out of shape! Did I miss something? Please, god, let someone have done this already... Links, anyone?

A down and dirty summary (still looking for the dirt behind these... who's for them? who's against? who pays? who benefits?):
  1. Elections - adds a summary of where to find policy on elections in the charter, since it's scattered throughout.
  2. Salaries - creates an independent salary commission to determine Mayoral and Councilor salaries, which then get voted on by the public, to start with the next term after an election. [This was the subject of lots of debate - is this self-serving? an end-run around the voters? Umm... No!]
  3. City Clerk - makes the position coincide w/ the Mayor's term & subject to approval of 2/3 of the Council, which also gets the authority to remove the Clerk w/ the same majority vote.
  4. Petitions - clarifies how amendments can be made to the Charter and allows the City Clerk (with approval from the City Attorney and City Council) to fix clerical errors and delete outlawed sections.
  5. Budget - attaches dates to the current budget process for accountability.
  6. Ethics - changes the authority for election ethics from the City Attorney (criminal charges) to the Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices (civil process).
  7. Zoning - adds an article clarifying the legislative role of the Council as the "ultimate planning and zoning authority (including adoption and interpretation of Plans, ordinances, and individual cases) versus the Mayor's role for implementation, enforcement, and administration of plans. [This is a big deal, and we'll see how it shakes out inside the Planning Departments... the Mayor's and the Council's!]
  8. Disputes - establishes a 3-person arbitration committee (1 appointed by the Council, 1 by the Mayor, 1 jointly) to resolve disputes about duties under the Charter. [Also very interesting! How often will this committee get used? All the time? Never?]
  9. Signatures - changes the signatures needed on a petition from a percentage to a number - 3,000 - to become a candidate for Mayor and 500 to become a candidate for City Council (making this equal across districts of different sizes).
  10. Attorney - changes the City Attorney's term to coincide with the Mayor, similar to the change to the City Clerk above, w/ the same approval & removal provisions by the Council.

Well, what do we think? Voters think they look okay...

(Incidentally, what's the knee-jerk response from voters on charter amendments? Is it, "They're fixing something that's broken, which is always a good idea!" Or, "They're *&^%$ing with our constitution, which is always a bad idea!" The approvals across the board seem to indicate the first instinct. Yikes!)