Charter group makes final Nov. 4 ballot recommendation

By From page A1 | July 25, 2014

The El Dorado County Charter Review Committee made two final recommendations for the Board of Supervisors to consider including in the upcoming election, Nov. 4.

The committee made recommendations for deleting a section of the charter that had repealed itself in 2005 and clarifying the positions of the Board of Supervisors using common parlance. The recommendations will go before the Board of Supervisors for their consideration on adding the changes to the November ballot. The changes could, if approved by voters, take effect at the beginning of the new year; any further recommendations by the committee, approved by the board, will not appear on ballots until 2015.

The committee took one agenda item out of order, tackling section 210c of the charter first. Elizabeth Zangari, of the county Community Development Agency, gave the committee background on the section, which deals with zones of benefits and benefit assessments.

However, she said, “this is no longer a nebulous concept” thanks to state law, which “rendered this part … of the charter somewhat redundant.” State law now precluded the section, making it obsolete.

After public comment, because the committee was unsure what deleting the section would do legally, it was continued to the next hearing.

The next topic was section 402, concerning elected department heads. Committee Vice Chairperson Rachel Michelin said she had done research and talked to supervisors and elected heads throughout the state, including those she had worked for in the past. She believed keeping the department heads elected was fine, as the people of the county valued voting. However, she said, if the board has term limits, so too should the elected department heads.

Terry Gherardi, District 4 representative, said she had spoken with county citizens and most agreed to keep the department heads elected. Gherardi was not opposed to three terms of four years. District 2 Representative Jim Hill agreed, saying, “Sometimes, change is good.” Cathy Staller, District 5 representative, believed there should be “fresh blood, new ideas.” Hill added that his father had a saying: “If you always do what you always did, you’d always get what you always got.”

Chairperson Kris Payne then produced the notes from the chairman of the previous committee. The previous committee, he said, had tried to eliminate all term limits. But, two court cases — Younger v. Board of Supervisors, 1979, and Cawdrey v. City of Redondo Beach, 1993 — limited the power of boards of supervisors. State law only allows for the board to change term limits for the board, not for elected department heads.

Michelin said the balance of power was off, calling the board an “eight-year carousel” and posed a question for the county counsel to answer regarding whether the state Constitution would allow for changing the elected heads’ terms.

Public comment focused on department heads needing specialized training and experience, while, as Bernard Carlson of El Dorado put it, members of the Board of Supervisors need a “good gift of gab. No specialized training.” Larry Weitzman said he believed Michelin was making her decision based on emotion, not facts. He said that the board makes laws, while department heads do not. That is why the board has term limits. Michelin countered that the Governor’s Cabinet is appointed and has term limits, but Weitzman said those were “different jobs.”

Bill Schultz, county recorder-clerk, said he took pride in his office. He has worked hard to make the office run smoothly, having to deal with voting machines that did not work nearly as well as a committee thought they would, changing back from electronic to paper voting. Now, with new electronic machines in the pipeline, he hopes he and his office have learned from the mistake — back in 2004. He and other elected officials “just want to do the best job we can for county citizens,” he said. And if they fail, they can be voted out every four years. Having the department heads leave after eight years would not be economical.

The matter was continued to the next hearing, with terms of the board next on the agenda. After short public comment — Weitzman suggested actually reading the recent government climate assessment — the matter was continued to the next meeting with little discussion.

Payne had again attempted to insert language regarding a respectful workplace into the charter’s preamble. While the new wording was met with more enthusiasm than his last proposal, committee members were still skeptical that it would do anything and whether the preamble was the correct place for the language. “What’s the preamble if not special to El Dorado County?” Payne asked.

Both committee members and the public appreciated Payne’s second proposed paragraph, which concerned carrying out business “using the most efficient and equitable methods available and that the results shall benefit no individual or groups of individuals at the detriment of the people.”

Payne asked the public — specifically Weitzman — to help propose language for the preamble, and the matter was continued.

Next was section 206, concerning the election of officers of the Board of Supervisors. Payne suggested adding in the common terms alongside “presiding officer,” “presiding officer pro tem” and “alternate presiding officer pro tem.” The committee voted 5-0 in favor of adding “chairperson,” “vice chairperson” and “second vice chairperson” to clarify the section.

The final agenda item was 210d. The section concerned allocating part of the General Fund for libraries. Enacted in 1995, it self-repealed after 10 years. In correspondence with Payne, Judith Kerr of the County Counsel’s Office said, “It no longer applies.” The previous committee, Payne said, had come to the same conclusion. Michelin asked why the section was still in the charter. Ross Branch of the Chief Administrative Office said that the board had rejected the previous committee’s recommendation as their recommendation was to “revoke the whole charter.”

The deletion of the section was met with unanimous approval and the recommendation to be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors.

The next meeting will be on Aug. 4 at 5 p.m. in Conference Room A of the Government Building.

Cole Mayer

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