Voters to decide charter change

Chula Vista City Council voted unanimously to put a measure on the November election ballot to update the City Charter.

The cost to the city for one comprehensive measure with a link to draft on the city’s website is $195,000. Any additional shorter measures costs $165,000. As the City Clerk’s office has no funding for these ballot measures, Council also voted to fund the ballot measure.

The last comprehensive update of the Charter occurred in 1978.

Over the past year, with input from city departments, in particular the City Clerk and the City Attorney’s office, the Charter Review Commission has undertaken an extensive review of the entire Charter. On July 12, the CRC presented draft Charter changes to Council, received feedback, and presented the updated version on July 27.

At that meeting City Attorney Glen Googins divided up the changes into three levels. Level 1 is non-substantive, correction, clarifications, elimination of redundancy, and reorganization. Level 2 is minimally substantive, reflects changes in law, technology, best practices, and would not alter current City practices or genre intent of existing Charter provision. Council agreed to accept all Level 1 and Level 2 changes but asked staff to come back with recommended changes for Level 3. Level 3 is more substantive, mostly derived from previous Council referrals or recommended by the Charter Review Committee presented to Council in 2020.

Deputy City Attorney Megan McClurg said the current update conforms with current state laws, updates definitions, reorganizes the Charter.

“On the 26th council members voted to support all Level 1 and Level 2 changes,” she said. “And the majority of council members voted to support three of the Level 3 changes.

Removing the requirement that commission and board members be qualified electors, requiring the city attorney to be a city resident, and increasing the legal experience requirement from seven to 10 years. And finally, allowing only mail ballots for special elections to fill a vacancy.”

McClurg said there were two major Level 3 changes that Council did not want to proceed on. The conversion of legislative council to conflict council and then the suspension of elected officials who have felony charges pending.

“There was an expressed interest in the one-year residency requirement for elected officials if it was legally possible,” she said. “The proposed resolution in front of you does a few things.

On July 12, you adopted a resolution that called for our election to be consolidated with statewide elections, so this resolution amends that resolution to support a ballot measure to the voters.”

McClurg said the ballot measure includes all the Level 1 and Level 3 changes, and the three Level 3 changes approved by council.

“The resolution does not include a durational residency requirement due to the legal issues involved. Our office did re-review relevant law regarding the durational residency requirement and can confirm that any charter provision that requires residency in excess of 30 days has been found to violate the Fourteenth Amendment and would be highly vulnerable to legal challenge,” she said. “The resolution also includes the actual ballot question to be submitted to the voters.”

McClurg said other things the resolution does is direct the city attorney, with the assistance of the city clerk as appropriate, to prepare the impartial analysis of the measure by Aug. 19. It directs the city clerk to publish a notice of the measure to be voted on in accordance with law, and the ballot arguments in favor of the measure would be due by Aug. 18. City Council has the authority to designate someone to submit a ballot argument in favor of a city measure, and this resolution authorizes the CRC chair Jim Scofield as the council’s designee.

“It also appropriates $195,000 from the general fund to the city clerk’s Supplies and Services to fund the cost of the measure,” she said.

McClurg said she wanted to note that the city has been engaged with its bargaining units in regard to the Charter changes, and with one request to revise a provision, which they did, since that time there have been no other concerns brought up by the bargaining units.

Council member Steve Padilla said the work of the city attorney, staff, and the CRC was a “gem” to the community.

“I appreciate your work. All your colleagues’ work. This was a good result after some good debate and discussion and I think we are putting something on the ballot for folks to consider that will help thing be clearer down the road and this is the right time to move forward being consistent with our conversation,” he said.