Agendas and Minutes

Charter Review Committee (View All)

Regular Meeting Minutes

Minutes
Thursday, May 12, 2005

Charter Review Committee
May 12, 2005
Regular Meeting Minutes
Redmond Room, Southern Oregon University

I. CALL TO ORDER:
Committee Co-Chair Carole Wheeldon called the Ashland Charter Review Committee meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. on May 12, 2005 in the Redmond Room at Southern Oregon University.
Members Present: John Enders, Carole Wheeldon, Hal Cloer, Keith Massie, Donald Montgomery, Kate Culbertson, Laurie MacGraw and Pam Marsh. Michael Riedeman arrived at 7:27 p.m.
Members Absent: None
Staff Present: Ann Seltzer, Staff Liaison
Mike Reeder, Assistant City Attorney
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder

Ms. Wheeldon noted that Mr. Bullock had requested a correction to his testimony for the May 5th meeting and distributed his suggested wording to the Committee. April Lucas noted that she would review Mr. Bullock's recorded testimony and bring back any necessary corrections at the next meeting. [Mr. Bullock's correction was submitted into the record and is attached to the minutes]

Pam Marsh, John Enders and Laurie MacGraw noted that they would abstain from voting on the minutes due to their absence from this meeting.

Kate Culbertson/Hal Cloer m/s to approve the minutes of May 5, 2005 as presented. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.

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II. PUBLIC FORUM:
Art Bullock/791 Glendower/Presented the results from the survey he has been conducting. Mr. Bullock stated that 82% of the citizens surveyed were opposed to the City Manager choosing the department heads, 73% were against the City Manager selecting the City Recorder, and 94% were against the City Manager selecting the judge or outsourcing this position. Mr. Bullock spoke regarding the Accountability Ladder and spoke against the shifting the power from the voters.
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III. COMMITTEE DELIBERATION: Structure of Government
Don Laws/Spoke to the committee regarding the structure of government, and noted that he had taught classes on this issue and has been on the City Council and Budget Committee for the last 30 years. Mr. Laws expressed his concern regarding the current structure and noted past conflicts between the City Administrator and Mayor when it came to selecting department heads. Mr. Laws spoke regarding the appointment of the City Manager and suggested that the Council and Mayor together should choose the Manager. He noted that with the current structure, the department heads do not know whom they are responsible to, and stated that most department heads are upset that the City Administrator has not been able to protect them from the demands of the Council. He stated that the City Administrator does not have much leverage with the current system and expressed his support for the Committee's recommendation for a City Manager.

Mr. Laws clarified for the Committee that there could be a potential deadlock situation if the City Manager was chosen by the Mayor with approval by the Council and stated that typically, this decision is made by the entire Council, including the Mayor. Mr. Laws also stated that he hoped the Committee could effectively communicate with the citizens the reasons for the choices they are making and stated that most people do not understand the possible conflicts with the current system. Mr. Laws commented that the voters should not be responsible for choosing the department heads, as the general public do not have the skills to evaluate the talents of the individual candidates.

Ms. Wheeldon noted that the Committee had already decided on recommending a City Manger and stated that the next issues included: vote or veto, what constitutes a quorum and what constitutes a supermajority.

It was noted that with the current standard for a quorum, an ordinance could get passed with just 3 councilors voting on it and only two supporting it. Mr. Laws stated that this had happened several times in the past, although they were non-controversial issues.

The Committee continued discussion regarding whether the Mayor should vote or have the power to veto. Comment was made that because more power would be placed in the City Manager position, the political power of the Mayor should be adjusted as well. Committee expressed their thoughts on whether the veto right or voting option placed more power with the Mayor. Opinion was expressed that removing the veto could reduce contention amongst the Council and statement was made that the Mayor would still be able to facilitate the meeting fairly even if he or she was a voting member of the Council. Comment was made that if the Mayor votes, his vote is only one of seven and the majority of the power would lie with the Council. Several Committee members expressed their support for the supermajority option, which could override a veto by the Mayor.

In regards to the quorum issue, comment was made that typically councilors will postpone making an important decision until a full Council is present. It was noted that with land use decisions, the Council is up against the 120 day rule and they might not have the option to delay making a decision. Mr. Laws noted his concerns with increasing the size of the quorum.

Keith Massie/Kate Culbertson m/s to retain the quorum as it is in the Charter. DISCUSSION: The current Charter language was noted. Comment was made that the Committee should determine whether the Mayor is a voting member of the Council before the quorum is determined. Massie withdrew his motion.

Hal Cloer/Kate Culbertson m/s that the Mayor be given a vote as a member of the Council. Roll Call Vote: Carole Wheeldon, Hal Cloer, Kate Culbertson, Michael Riedeman, Laurie MacGraw and Pam Marsh, YES. John Enders, Keith Massie and Donald Montgomery, NO. Motion passed 6-3.

Hal Cloer/Laurie MacGraw m/s that the Mayor's power to veto be retained in the Charter. Roll Call Vote: Hal Cloer and Laurie MacGraw, YES. John Enders, Carole Wheeldon, Keith Massie, Donald Montgomery, Kate Culbertson, Michael Riedeman and Pam Marsh, NO. Motion fails 7-2.

Keith Massie/Kate Culbertson m/s to retain the quorum as it stands in the Charter. Roll Call Vote: John Enders, Carole Wheeldon, Hal Cloer, Keith Massie, Donald Montgomery, Kate Culbertson, Laurie MacGraw and Pam Marsh, YES. Michael Riedeman, NO. Motion passed 8-1.

Kate Culbertson/Pam Marsh m/s for the Mayor to make appointments to the committees and commissions with Council's approval. DISCUSSION: Committee discussed whether the Council should have input on the appointments as well. Several Committee members voiced their support for the motion. Suggestion was made for the Council to be involved in reviewing the applications and proposing recommendations, with the Mayor making the final appointment with the Council's approval. Comment was made that the Council already gives the Mayor input. Statement was made that this could formalize the Council's role in the process.

Donald Montgomery/Carole Wheeldon m/s to amend the original motion to include that the Council can bring forward candidates for consideration. Roll Call Vote: Donald Montgomery and Michael Riedeman, YES. John Enders, Carole Wheeldon, Hal Cloer, Keith Massie, Kate Culbertson and Pam Marsh, NO. Motion failed 7-2.

Roll Call Vote on original motion: John Enders, Carole Wheeldon, Hal Cloer, Keith Massie, Donald Montgomery, Kate Culbertson, Laurie MacGraw and Pam Marsh, YES. Michael Riedeman, NO. Motion passed 8-1.

Michael Riedeman/Kate Culbertson m/s that the Planning Commission members be proposed and appointed by the Mayor and Council. DISCUSSION: Mr. Riedeman noted his reasoning for the motion. Comment was made that when asked, the Planning Commission voiced opposition to the appointments being made by the Council. Comment was made expressing support for keeping this in the hands of the Mayor. Roll Call Vote: Michael Riedeman, YES. John Enders, Carole Wheeldon, Hal Cloer, Donald Montgomery, Kate Culbertson, Laurie MacGraw and Pam Marsh, NO. Keith Massie abstained. Motion failed 7-1.

Carole Wheeldon/John Enders m/s to adopt Section 37 of Chapter 9 of the model charter. DISCUSSION: Section 37 was read aloud, which states, "The council by resolution will determine the rules governing recruitment, selection, promotion, transfer, demotion, suspension, layoff, and dismissal of city employees based on merit and fitness". Roll Call Vote: John Enders, Carole Wheeldon, Hal Cloer, Keith Massie, Donald Montgomery, Kate Culbertson, Michael Riedeman, Laurie MacGraw and Pam Marsh, YES. Motion passed unanimously.

The Committee opened the discussion of Council elections and the alternatives were noted:
1) Status Quo.
2) Maintain existing system with addition of instant voter runoff.
3) Implement a citywide ward system.
4) Implement a citywide ward system with addition of instant voter runoff.
5) Eliminate position system in favor of a citywide at large election; top three vote-getters would win council seats at issue.

Pam Vavra/2800 Dead Indian Memorial Road/Commented on the Committee's role and stated that it is their duty to determine if the Charter was serving the community well, and if it would do so into the future. Ms. Vavra stated that there is no question that the community favored a preference voting system, and stated that this issue should be handled separately. She noted the information she had submitted to the Committee which addressed the needs, costs and also addressed some of the opposing views. Mr. Vavra asked that the Committee please keep this issue on the table.

Sean Gordon/2800 Dead Indian/Voiced his support for instant runoff voting and stated that it should be handled as an independent option for consideration.

Mr. Enders commented that he was not opposed to IRV, but stated that it was not the charge of this committee to insert into the Charter at this time. Mr. Enders voiced his support for the formation of a separate group that could research this issue.

John Enders/Keith Massie m/s to not consider Instant Runoff Voting. DISCUSSION: Comment was made that additional research needs to be done before inserting this provision into the Charter. Ms. Wheeldon noted that the Committee would continue to include this issue in their report to the Council. Comment was made expressing support for including permitting language in the Charter so if the City chose, they could implement this provision in the future. Confusion was expressed as to whether the current language of the Charter would allow for this provision. Mr. Enders withdrew the motion.

Committee reached a consensus to consult with the City Attorney regarding this provision.

Mike Riedeman/Don Montgomery m/s for the top three vote-getters to win council seats. DISCUSSION: The Committee discussed the benefits and consequences of this type of voting. Comment was made that the Committee needed more evidence of the benefits before putting this option to the voters. City Recorder Barbara Christensen, who is the Elections Officer for the City of Ashland, explained that with the current system, candidates often jockey around before deciding which seat they are going to file for and stated that she believed that the current system allowed for more diversity on the Council. Suggestion was made to table this issue until more substantive information is collected and it was noted that the City Recorder was present to provide input on the City Recorder issue which is also on the Agenda for tonight's meeting. Request was made for the Committee to continue deliberations and see if a decision could be made before moving to the City Recorder issue. Support was expressed for the motion and comment was made that this would bring clarity to the election process. Comment was made that candidates running against each other for specific positions brings substance to the process and concern was expressed that the proposed system could back fire. Comment was made that the top three system could turn into a popularity contest and statement was made that there is not a problem with the current system. Statement was made that the Committee has already proposed enough big changes. Recommendation was made for the Committee to consider several scenarios before supporting this change and comment was made expressing opposition to making a decision on this issue at this time. Mr. Riedeman withdrew the motion.

Donald Montgomery/John Enders m/s for the top three vote-getters to win Council seats. Roll Call Vote: Keith Massie, Donald Montgomery, Kate Culbertson, Michael Riedeman and Pam Marsh, YES. John Enders, Carole Wheeldon, Hal Cloer and Laurie MacGraw, NO. Motion passed 5-4.

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IV. COMMITTEE DELIBERATION: Council Compensation, Municipal Judge, City Recorder
City Recorder Barbara Christensen addressed the Committee and assured them that she would not be launching a campaign against their recommendation, whatever it may be. She stated that she agreed with most of the points that were made at last week's discussion and spoke regarding the qualifications issue. Ms. Christensen presented an option which could address the qualifications issue and suggested that the Committee insert language into the Charter which would require the elected Recorder/Treasurer to be a member of the Oregon Municipal Recorders Association and the Oregon Municipal Finance Officers Association, both of which offer ongoing training, assistance, and certification programs to their members. Ms. Christensen explained that the certification programs take several years and stated that it would be difficult to require a candidate to be certified prior to taking office. Ms. Christensen noted that there is already a failsafe contained in the Charter which provides the Council the authority to remove the Recorder if they are not fulfilling their duties. She also stated that the voters would not reelected a candidate if they were not fulfilling the requirements of the office. Ms. Christensen cautioned the Committee from removing the treasury duties from this office, and clarified that there are no overlapping duties with the Finance Director and explained that this separation provides for a very effective checks and balances system within the organization. Ms. Christensen questioned why the Committee has been discussing changing a system that has worked so well for the community and noted that there has never been an elected person who has not been able to fulfill the required duties of this position. Ms. Christensen stated that she would like the opportunity to provide additional information to the Committee to assist them in making their recommendation.
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V. NEXT STEPS:
It was noted that the Committee would be discussing the Parks and Recreation issue at their next meeting and clarified that they would just be taking input and not making a decision. It was noted how important it will be to have all the members present during their decision making sessions.
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VI. ITEMS FROM COMMITTEE MEMBERS:
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VII. ADJOURNMENT: Meeting adjourned at 9:34 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
April Lucas, Assistant to City Recorder


Attachment #1

Requested revision for May 5 minutes:

Art Bullock, 791 Glendower, continued his presentation from the last meeting. He said Citizens seemed to use an implicit "Accountability Ladder" to respond to survey questions and explain their answers. Currently, critical decisions like choosing the municipal judge and city recorder are currently reserved for the voters, the highest rung of the Accountability Ladder. Department heads are confirmed by city council (2nd rung) as recommended by the mayor (3rd rung). The survey of over 300 people found that 82% were opposed to having a city administrator/manager (the lowest of the 4 rungs) choose department heads. They explained their answers with basic values of democracy (opposed to "one-person rule", etc.), accountability ("city manager not accountable to voters", "golden parachute contracts" to not be fired, etc.), openness (manager makes "decisions behind closed doors", etc.). Respondents wanted more accountability, not less. The survey also found that 94% opposed the proposed firing of elected city councilors when they intervened in personnel matters.


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