Charter Review Committee
September 2, 2004
Regular Meeting Minutes
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street
I. CALL TO ORDER: Chair John Enders called the Ashland Charter Review Committee meeting to order at 7:03 p.m. on September 2, 2004 in the Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E Main Street, Ashland, Oregon.
Members Present: Roy Bashaw, Hal Cloer, Kate Culbertson, John Enders, Laurie MacGraw, Pam Marsh, Keith Massie and Michael Riedeman
Member Absent: Donald Montgomery, Carole Wheeldon
Staff Present: Mike Franell, City Attorney
Nancy Slocum, Clerk
II. PRESENTATION BY TOM SPONSLER
Chair John Enders introduced Thomas Sponsor of Beery, Elsner and Hammond LLP. Sponsler, a graduate of Willamette Law School with 25 years of experience in city and county government, presented an overview of the City's current charter. The presentation included an introduction to charters, legal structure, political issues, practical considerations, possible next steps and his recommendation to the committee. Sponsler summarized the amendments to the 1970 Ashland Charter and noted that Ashland's charter is approximately four times as long as the model charter. His legal observations were that the current charter contained outdated provisions, provisions currently covered by state law, some provisions would serve better as ordinances and noted that the charter's government structure (Mayor as executive officer) is not the current one being practiced (City Manager as executive officer). He recommended a city charter be readable, concise, logical, well organized and consistent. He recommended either fixing the current charter or using the Model charter as a framework to build upon.
III. QUESTIONS FROM COMMITTEE
Enders thought perhaps authors of the 1970 Charter intended to maximize legal authority. He was curious about their intent. Massie asked if city councils are typically open to adopting ordinances removed from the charter. Sponsler said, in his experience, they were and recommended the committee draft the ordinances or make a list of recommended ordinances. Riedeman asked about election ordinances. Sponsler noted that only the nomination process could be regulated by cities the election process itself is regulated by state law.
Bashaw wondered if both a mayor and city administrator could share administrative duties. Sponsor thought it difficult to find a mayor with the required skill set.
Enders asked the most common form of government. Sponsor replied the "City Manager" form of government. The advantage is that a manager's responsibilities are spelled out in the charter. A mayor's role would include leading the city council and setting policy. He believed Ashland's current charter grant the mayor "paper" authority only and no voting rights.
Massie wondered if Sponsler's sample timeline for a March election was realistic. Sponsler thought it unlikely, but perhaps May depending upon the number of divisive issues.
Cloer was concerned about public acceptance of a revised city charter and wondered if a county review process differed. Sponsler said counties are unique in the large number of elected officials and their history of being regulated by the state. County charters are more difficult to pass. Bashaw wondered if voters are generally against removing the right to elect a public official. Sponsler said it depended upon the reasoning behind the provision. Sponsler recommended adapting the model charter. If provisions don't fit for Ashland, ask for public input. He noted four types of revisions 1) simple housecleaning; 2) common sense changes; 3) revisions requiring public input; and 4) "hot button" issues that may require a split election.
Massie would like to have outdated provisions, provisions covered by state law and provisions that would better serve as an ordinance outlined in the current charter. Sponsler noted that this would be time consuming and expensive to the committee. He recommended using the Charter Edit Worksheet he distributed to the committee.
VI. QUESTIONS FROM AUDIENCE
Bryan Holley, 324 Liberty, a member of the Tree Commission and ad hoc member of the Citizens for Responsible Government, asked if shifting language from the charter to an ordinance was practical. Sponsler said it was fairly straightforward and suggested making it mandatory within the language of the ballot measure. A city council should be in agreement beforehand.
Franell added that in many instances state law or the city administrator would fill the gaps left by removing charter provisions. A voter initiative could cover contingencies (e.g. the relationship between the City and the hospital, the City Band).
Susan Rust, 42 N Wightman, noted the current survey on the City website. She asked for suggestions educating the public. Sponsler recommended extensive press coverage, getting the League of Women Voters involved and presentations to community groups. He noted that typically small communities are more politically involved.
Marsh estimated six to eight controversial issues and wondered about the risk of placing such issues on the ballot. Marsh wondered if brevity increased the risk of failure. Sponsler noted that most citizens appreciate brevity. An important part of building public trust is consensus among Charter Review Committee members and the most successful charter revisions are those in which the public, in general, trusts the charter review commission. Cloer asked about holding two elections, one for simple changes and one that would require an active campaign. Sponsler noted a disadvantage in that certain provisions may not be safeguarded until the second election.
McGraw wondered if city councils have been known to deny charter review committee recommendations. Sponsler said no. Although they may not like the recommendations, charter review committees are independent and ad hoc.
City Councilor Cate Hartzell recommended extensive public involvement before the committee attempted to reach a consensus. Enders replied that this issue was considered and approved at the last meeting.
Enders thanked Sponsler and asked committee members to begin filling out the Charter Edit Worksheet. Marsh would also list political and policy issues she believed would require public input.
The next regular meeting of the Charter Review Committee is set for Thursday, September 16th beginning at 7:00 p.m. Former Mayor Cathy Shaw was scheduled to make a short presentation.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:01 p.m.