Voters to Decide on City Charter in November
City Council Refers Charter Proposal to the Ballot
Carson voters will have an opportunity to decide if the city should become a “Charter City” this fall. After hours of often contentious debate over several public hearings and council meetings, the Carson City Council voted Aug. 7 to place the charter measure on the ballot.
More than 100 California cities have a charter, including neighboring Torrance and Long Beach. Moving from “general law” to a charter city would give Carson new powers on a range of issues, including its elections, as well as policies on land use, economic development and others.
Carson voters will be asked if they want to adopt a charter with Measure CA on November’s ballot.
Path to the Ballot
The final proposed Charter was the product of work done his summer by city staff, the city council and a charter committee appointed by Mayor Albert Robles.
The committee met weekly on Monday nights for three months from early May through the end of July, and was comprised of 11 community members, including former elected officials and Committee Chair Ana Meni of AFSCME Local 809.
This committee ultimately voted 5-4 to refer a draft charter proposal to the council for approval. Numerous members of the committee testified at the city’s public hearings on the issue.
The council also held numerous public hearings on the issue, including lengthy discussions at a special meeting July 31 and the regular council meeting Aug. 7.
The vote to advance the Charter to the ballot was 3-2, with councilmembers Elito Santarina and Jawane Hilton and Mayor Robles voting in favor.
What is in the Proposed Charter?
Among the significant changes proposed by the charter:
Economic Development and Hiring
The charter allows the city to use incentives beyond those available to general law cities to attract business and responsible development and economic growth. It also requires project labor agreements for certain projects.
The proposed Charter places restrictions on city leaders from promoting or hiring relatives by blood or marriage within the third degree.
Higher Salaries for Elected Officials
As reported by The Daily Breeze, “Council members will receive a 72 percent increase in wages and benefits if voters approve switching Carson from a general-law city to a charter city in the November election,” The total estimate for the part time positions is more than $80,000 for the mayor and $77,000 for the city council. Council members currently receive average salary and benefits of roughly $44,000.
Adjusts Term Limits
Carson voters imposed a three term limit on all of its elected officials in 2016. The revised charter imposes a three term limit on city council members, but removes term limits for City Clerk or Treasurer and is silent on whether council members may run for these positions when their council terms are over.
Restricts City’s Ability to Raise Taxes
The proposed charter requires a two-thirds vote of the city council to approve general taxes, special taxes, and property taxes for submission to the voters. This effectively raises the current threshold from three votes to four required for approval.
Potentially Larger City Council
If the City exceeds 100,000 residents, the City may increase the size of the city council from the current five members to seven.
Ban on Marijuana Dispensaries
The Charter would ban marijuana dispensaries in Carson.
The Charter covers numerous other items related to city administration and operations. It creates a Civil-Service Commission to process employment matters at city hall, prohibits eminent domain of any current residential zones, and addresses issues related to mobile home parks, city owned real estate and other land use.
A simple majority, 50 percent plus one vote, of the city’s voters will have to approve the measure Nov. 6 in order to move forward with the proposed charter.
City Pressed on Process in Developing the Charter
Hours of testimony were received from dozens of city residents at the city’s July 31 special meeting and during an Aug. 7 public hearing. Many commenters referenced uncertainty and a feeling that the process had been rushed.
One commenter at the Aug. 7 meeting said, “I am hearing people say is we want to hear about what is being said about the charter, but we don’t want to rush into something.”
Carson Accountability and Transparency (CAT) also urged the city to take a more deliberate approach. The city allowed 90 days for the Charter Commission to do its work, a time frame less than that of other cities that have recently advanced charter proposals. The City of Carlsbad, as an example, only referred its measure to the ballot following a series of public workshops and more than six months of study. That measure passed with 82 percent of the vote.
CAT also pursued documents related to the city’s polling on the charter. CAT submitted a public records request for all documents related to Carson’s work with the polling firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin Metz & Associates (FM3), who was contracted to provide “public opinion research and strategic consulting services” to the city.
CAT received numerous documents but not the results of the poll. The city attorney cited “attorney client privilege” as well as legal exemptions designed for draft documents and/or “deliberative process” for withholding some of these items.
For More Information
Both arguments for and against the charter as well as the impartial analysis developed by the City Attorney are viewable below