Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Wednesday, March 17, 2004 at 12:00 p.m.
Council Chambers, 1175 East Main Street

Mayor DeBoer called the meeting to order at 12:06 p.m.

City Council: Councilors Morrison, and Laws were present. Councilor Jackson arrived at 12:15.
Councilors Hearn, Hartzell and Amarotico were absent.
Staff: Management Analyst Ann Seltzer, City Attorney Paul Nolte, Assistant City Attorney Mike Franell and City Administrator Gino Grimaldi.

I. Charter Review Discussion
Management Analyst Ann Seltzer introduced Sandra Arp who is a Codification Consultant with the American Legal Publishing Corporation.

Arp shared her experience with assisting various cities with Charter Reviews, and explained the process and her participation as a Charter Consultant. She stated that she is aware of the Ashland Charter and noted that it is unique in Oregon. Arp presented the most recent Model City Charter for the League of Oregon Cities. She explained that cities will often change their Charter because items become no longer enforceable or legal, and stated it is a common evolution for a city to move from the Mayor/Council form of government to the Council/Manager form. Arp stated there are some strange things in the Ashland Charter that make it unique to Oregon, explained Ashland's Charter is a longer than it needs to be, and noted there are items that have become outdated. Arp stated that all of the election laws have changed since the adoption of the Ashland Charter in 1970, and added that Ashland's Charter could cause problems if it is not updated.

Arp explained that there are a number of ways to review a Charter as long as the present Charter does not dictate how it should be done. The Council could draft it themselves, assign a Staff member, or they could appoint a committee. If Council appoints a committee, Arp suggests appointing 7-9 individuals from various interest groups in the City, and stressed having a strong chair. Arp stated that the City of Seaside appointed their Municipal Judge as the chair, and suggests that Ashland look at using a former City Council member or someone with a strong knowledge of the City. Arp also recommended that our Legal Department be involved in this process. Arp explained that how the Council makes up the committee is often considered a political decision. She also clarified that the Charter Committee meetings would be open to the public with public notice, as any other public meeting would be. Arp noted that a new Charter or Charter amendments could go on any of the 4 elections dates, and explained that if is often much easier to adopt a new Charter rather than amending various sections. She noted that Ashland's Charter is written in gender neutral terms, and explained that these are the types of things that may be overlooked when doing amendments. Arp also noted that if you try to amend several sections, they could not be put on the same ballot title; however a new Charter can be listed as one title.

Arp spoke regarding the model charter. She explained that the general grants of powers became the basis for the first model charter, and there have been various additions of that model up through today. With Ashland's Charter there are general grants of powers, but also specific powers listed. If you mix the two it means that the general grants don't really mean what they say. Arp stated the City Charter should be a basic document that lists your authority, power, form of government and any limitations on how to in act a law. She added that legislation is not the purpose of the Charter and should not be included. Arp stated that 85-90% of the cities in Oregon has a Charter that is based on a version of this model.

Arp explained there are three types of issues to look at when doing a Charter review: 1) Legal issues, 2) Open meeting laws, and 3) Political issues. Arp stated she could not tell from the Charter how the administrative duties are divided between the Mayor and the Administrator, and stated it is hard to determine what the chain of command is because of the way the Mayor's duties and functions are described. Arp noted that some of the political issues to consider when drafting the Charter is whether or not the Mayor is able to vote, if it is a paid position, and how long the terms for Council seats are. On a side note, Arp added that you should never list dollar amounts in a Charter (which Ashland has done in its current version).

Arp explained that generally a Charter Committee will meet many times and the Council should plan on holding several meetings regarding the draft Charter. She stated the Council will be able to give direction to the committee (even though it may not be followed), and once the draft is provided to the Council they will be able to fine tune it before sending it to the ballot. Arp stated she has not experienced a situation where the Council did not follow the suggestions of a committee, but then again most cities do not appoint a committee but rather just follow the model.

Arp stated the make-up of a committee should include those who are interested, such as the League of Women's Voters, or a former councilor, mayor or city attorney. She stated the most important thing is to appoint a strong chair, and the committee should include members who are active and interested. Arp stated she would not recommend the current mayor or councilors to a part of the committee. She added it was an option for the Council to draft the charter themselves, but it would require a lot of time in meetings and would also mean no citizen involvement.

Council noted there are several items in the Charter that simply need to be updated, and others that are highly controversial. Arp stated that she believes the committee would help to alleviate these issues by enabling the public to look at the new Charter as a consensus of the people and see that no one faction has total control. Arp noted that it is the smaller communities with staffing issues that typically end up undertaking the Charter Revisions themselves. Arp recommended that the City Attorney attend the committee meetings, not as a member, but to keep the members on the straight and narrow. She added that often committee members will attempt to include items that are totally illegal or unconstitutional.

City Administrator Gino Grimaldi stated he believes it is best to have the City Attorney position appointed by the City Council, not the City Manager; and explained that in order to be effective the City Attorney needs to be kept independent from the organization.

Council questioned whether the Charter update could be ready in time for the fall election. Arp explained that it depends on how fast the committee works, and restated that a new Charter can be put on any ballot. If it is not done in time for the November ballot, it could go on the March ballot. Arp added that the Charter Committee should not look at the makeup of the Council as it is now, but have them draft a Charter for the future. She added that if Ashland uses the model charter as a base, we would want to adopt footnotes as legislative history.

City Attorney Paul Nolte agreed, stating that the Ashland Charter is lacking good legislation history and agreed that this is very important to have.

Council discussed the proposed timeline of the meetings. Seltzer stated she had included this information to give the Council a visual, and this would not necessarily be the set schedule. Jackson asked if there was a particular reason why they were looking at the November election. Morrison stated an intensive schedule with weekly meetings would work best and keep the information fresh. Arp noted that there they may be items that Council will want to preserve from the current Charter, and if so they can be reproduced in the new one.

Mayor DeBoer recommended hiring a consultant to review the Charter and make recommendations prior to the formation of the committee. He added they should focus on identify technical problems first and then move to the more sensitive political issues.

Council discussed whether to use the normal appointment process to recruit committee members. Seltzer noted examples of questions that could be used (in addition to the letter of interest) for selection purposes. Council discussed whether this was a good idea or not. Laws stated if they ask for volunteers, they will mainly get people who have a special interest in changing some part of the charter. Laws suggests starting out with those that have a major stake in the community. Morrison feels the way to deflect criticism is to develop a process that does not just round up the usual suspects, but is as inclusive as it can possibly be. Laws stated you cannot do this by just having people volunteer.

Morrison questioned whether they should hire someone to perform the legal review or whether the Legal Department would handle it. City Attorney Paul Nolte recommends that they use both, explaining that this would give them a broader view. The consultant would be useful in answering questions and helping the committee to operate. Nolte stated he would not suggest having the consultant help with the recruitment, explaining they should utilize someone with knowledge of our community. Laws stated the consultant should start out by explaining the different forms of government (Mayor/Council vs. Manager/Council) and pointing out some of the problems in the current Charter. Nolte suggests that the consultant be present at the first few meetings to get the committee rolling, and then be used periodically as issues arise. It was clarified that the consultant would draft the measure with the assistance of the legal staff. Seltzer stated the cost of a consultant ranged from $5,000 - $10,000. Grimaldi expressed concern that there were three council members missing from the meeting, and suggests that a memo go out to the Council to bring the absent members up to speed.

Mayor noted numerous openings on the various commissions and committees. Council and Staff discussed how to better get the information out regarding these vacancies.

Meeting was adjourned at 1:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder

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