NOTE: The sub-committee asked for a draft of "Talking Points" This document is meant to be a springboard for talking points for public presentations; it could also serve as a handout. The questions and answers can be modified as the committee progresses. For example, you may want to make some changes/updates to this after the meeting on October 7.
Ashland City Charter
· A review and revision of the Ashland City Charter has been a council goal for two years.
· The Mayor and council appointed an independent ad hoc charter review committee in May of 2004. The 10-member committee includes Ashland citizens who have some understanding of local government. Every effort was made to ensure that this group of people was non-political, do not stand to benefit from any changes to the charter and are viewed by the community as non-biased.
· The primary function of the committee is to review the existing charter and if necessary prepare a draft charter.
· The current charter was last reviewed in 1970. It contains outdated legal and practical language making parts of the charter obsolete and antiquated.
· A change to the charter requires a vote of the people.
· Once the committee has a final draft charter, it will be presented it to the city council. The draft will be reviewed by the council and pending council approval be submitted to the county for inclusion on an upcoming ballot.
· The Charter Review committee meets on the first and third Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in council chambers at 1175 East Main Street.
City of Ashland Charter
What is a city charter?
A city charter is a city's constitution. It should identify the authority and accountability of local government. It conveys the fundamentals of city government and should be concise and adaptable to changing conditions in order to avoid frequent changes. City residents, staff and elected officials change over time; the charter should be applicable regardless of the players.
A city charter should clearly identify the legislative, administrative and quasi-judicial authority of elected officials.
Charter FAQ continued
Why does the Ashland city charter need to be updated?
The current charter contains outdated legal and practical language. In addition, it contains political issues that need to be reviewed, evaluated and possibly changed.
Article IX, Section 1 Provides that the city can sentence a code violator for a "term of hard labor" not exceeding 60 days. It is difficult to determine what this section actually means much less sentencing someone to it.
Article IX, Section 29b) Flood Damage Restoration Bonds. This section authorizes flood bonds for the 1974 flood. Decades ago general obligation (GO) bonds had to be authorized by charter amendment. GO bonds still require a vote of the people but it is no longer necessary to add them to the charter for each special bond authorization.
Article XI, Section 4. Bids. Comprehensive competitive bidding laws applicable to all cities were adopted by the state in the 1970s. Competitive bidding requirements are contained in a multitude of state statutes and administrative rules. This section is now obsolete.
NOTE: These examples were taken from a list that Paul Nolte compiled many months ago. You may want to use different examples.
Why should I care about the city charter?
The city charter "governs" a community, as such residents of that community should be able to turn to the charter and easily determine the lines of authority, accountability and responsibility of their local government.
It seems to work fine, why change it?
The committee has been asked to determine if in fact the charter does "work fine". The current charter is fairly rigid and inflexible. The current charter includes many provisions that are best left to city ordinances enabling the elected body to modify those provisions as the need arises. In addition, the current charter is just plain difficult to read.
What does the committee plan to change?
The committee has not yet decided what to change. Likely the committee will recommend eliminating legal provisions that are no longer applicable and are superseded by Oregon State Law.
In addition, the committee will likely recommend eliminating any references to numbers, dollar amounts and dates as those items change over time and are best included in ordinances.
How is the committee making decisions?
The committee has been gathering information and learning about the current charter so that it can make informed decisions on possible changes to the charter.
A consultant has been hired and has helped the committee to identify outdated legal and practical language and political issues that should be reviewed.
Former city staff and elected officials have been invited to speak to the committee about their views of the current charter from a legal, practical and political standpoint.
How can I keep informed about the progress of the charter review committee?
The committee has adopted a public education/involvement plan and will make every effort to reach the community beyond the regular meetings by speaking to service groups, holding public forums and providing information to the local media.
The public is invited to attend all committee meetings, which occur on the first and third Thursday of each month. The meetings are also televised on channel 9. Information on committee meetings is posted on the city's website at www.ashland.or.us
When will I be asked to vote on a new charter?
There are four possible election dates each year in Oregon, two in the spring and two in the fall. The earliest possible date that an amended charter could be placed on the ballot is in March of 2005 however it could also be on the ballot on the last possible date, which is in November 2005. The committee has not yet determined a timeline