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Charter reform will be an item on the November ballot, but not in the form of a strong mayor initiative. Instead, voters will be asked if they want to elect a 15-member commission to review the city charter.
After more than 20 people spoke on the topic during public comment, the City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday to reject putting the Checks and Balances Act of 2012 – the strong mayor initiative – to a public vote in November.
Council members Sandy Sheedy, Rob Fong, Kevin McCarty, Darrell Fong and Bonnie Pannell were the majority votes.
Council members Angelique Ashby, Steve Cohn, Jay Schenirer and Mayor Kevin Johnson each voted in favor of the measure
Two governance-related considerations were on the agenda Tuesday night: a charter reform commission and the Checks and Balances Act, which had been revised from the last council discussion.
After the motion to put the strong mayor initiative on the ballot failed, the council voted in favor of a ballot measure to elect a 15-member charter commission.
McCarty suggested the charter reform commission as an option to the strong mayor initiative at the Jan. 17. council meeting.
The measure would be twofold: first asking voters if they want an elected charter commission, and second, asking voters to select whom they want to serve on that commission.
“I don’t like a charter commission because I don’t like how much it will cost,” Ashby said. “Between staffing and meetings and the elections – It’s too expensive.”
According to the City Clerk’s office, the county is currently unable to give a cost estimate for the “candidate” portion of the issue – the cost would depend largely on how many candidates were on the ballot.
The “question” portion of the issue, however, is estimated at $127,100 according to the City Clerk’s office.
Supporters of an elected charter commission told council members that it would be worth the time and expense.
“Democracy is messy, and a commission can be time-consuming,” Sacramento resident and former City Council candidate Henry Harry said, “but it will allow us to get it right.”
Many who opposed an elected commission, however, expressed concern that opening the city charter for review is akin to opening Pandora’s Box.
“(A charter commission) opens up doors to other issues that we’d rather not see open up,” said Mark Tyndale, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association.
Roger Niello, current CEO of the Sacramento Metro Chamber and former State Assemblyman, said he believes an elected charter commission would pit competing city interests against each if the city charter is reviewed in its entirety.
“You would be creating the political equivalent of a food fight,” Niello said.
After the final vote, Johnson voiced his disappointment, saying simply, “I think a charter commission is a bad idea.”
Ashby said of the charter commission, “This seems like déjà vu. It looks like redistricting, and we all know how that turned out. I promise you that a year from now we will get hammered on this.”
If a charter commission is elected in November, the members will have two years to submit any proposal for charter reform to voters.
The City Council also considered creating a ballot measure Tuesday asking voters to weigh in on a potential lease of the city's parking assets to help finance a new sports and entertainment complex. The Sacramento Press will have the update on that story Wednesday.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.
Editorial Note: A correction was made to this article after it was published. The incorrect information was struck out and the correction information added.