Mar 2 2018

Council Did Not Appoint a Charter Review Committee as Was Done in 1977 Prior to Moving Ahead on Charter Changes

Unlike the Piedmont City Council of 1977 (1977 City Council minutes below), the majority on the 2018 Piedmont City Council plans to put important Charter changes on the June 2018 ballot without an advisory committee, input from City commissions, the School Board, or a broad public information exchange.

The June ballot will require the City to spend up to $55,000 to stop City Council members from returning to office until they have been out of office for 8 years, which is 4 years beyond the current hiatus law.The majority on the Council, except Councilmember Jen Cavenaugh, want immediate action, calling for a Special Election in June 2018, rather than wait until the much less costly Regular Election in November 2018 and public engagement on the proposed changes.

Citizens have pointed out that the rushed Charter changes in regard to limiting citizens who can be candidates favors the current majority of on the City Council, who will be up for re-election in November 2018. The favored Councilmembers are Tim Rood, Betsy Andersen and Teddy King. All of whom have expressed support for the extended time limit on the candidacy of former elected officials.

The majority of the Council members stated that turnover on the Council would be good for Piedmont and opportunities should be opened for more volunteers to serve.  Yet, the current City Council has often rejected new volunteers from appointment to Piedmont Committees and Commissions, where new appointees would gain additional insight helpful in running for a position on the Council.  When making appointments, the Council has repeatedly reached back, recycling former appointees or transferring termed-out appointees from one commission or committee to another, while new, qualified volunteers were not chosen.

Incumbency as an advantage for prior office holders was a primary reason put forward by those Council members seeking to forbid individuals from seeking elected office until 8 years had elapsed.  However, by law, the term “incumbent” is one who is “in office seeking reelection”; former out-of-office individuals are not incumbents and can not by law seek office as “incumbents.”  

Definition: “An incumbent is an official who holds an office.” 

California law states:

  1. Pursuant to Elections Code Section 13107, subdivision (b)(4), the Secretary of State shall reject as unacceptable any proposed ballot designation which uses a word or prefix to indicate a prior profession, vocation, occupation or elected, appointed or judicial office previously held by the candidate. Such impermissible words or prefixes include, but are not limited to, “Ex-,” “former,” “past,” and “erstwhile.” Examples of impermissible designations include “Former Congressman,” “Ex-Senator,” and “Former Educator.”

(2) The word “incumbent” [can be used] if the candidate is a candidate for the same office which he or she holds at the time of filing the nomination papers, and was elected to that office by a vote of the people.

Piedmont City Council and School Board elections are frequently uncontested.  Stopping previously elected officials from seeking election potentially narrows the field of potential candidates and increases the possibility of an uncontested election relieving candidates from the necessity of campaigning / convincing citizens to vote for them.

Prominence in the community for good work is the criteria used by most voters.  History proves some Piedmont candidates seeking reelection or a return to office after an absence have not won election.

The School Board at their February meeting did not take an official position on whether or not School Board members should likewise be prohibited by law from running for the Board prior to an eight year hiatus. Mayor Robert McBain and City Clerk John Tulloch in their expedited trip to the School Board discovered the School Board members were unprepared to support the proposal of the City Administrator Paul Benoit and Mayor McBain to extend the limit from 4 to 8 years when an individual would be barred as a candidate for office.  Prior to Council consideration on March 5, 2018, the staff report indicates McBain and Benoit changed their recommendation.  The two decided against the inclusion of the School Board in their recommendation to change the City Charter. 

Some Piedmonters have wondered why the Council and City staff are so eager to preemptively spend $55,000 on a ballot measure that could wait for community consideration and placement on the November 2018 ballot.  It has been speculated that the advantage to current Councilmembers to eliminate competitors in the November 2018 election could be the impetus for spending up to $55,000 in June rather than wait until November, because the budget and fund reserve issues can continue as practiced until further exploration of the implications and consideration of the changes on the November ballot. 

Reserving excess City revenue funds as proposed in the Charter changes will be discussed in a future article.


Below is the language found in the 1977 City Council minutes charging a Charter Review Committee:

“On July 5, 1977, by Resolution 172-77, the City Council charged the Charter Review Committee as follows:

Resolved:  That this Council directs the Charter Review Committee to recommend to the Council the deletion of antiquated provisions and recommend updating of Charter provisions.

All Council members present voted aye: Loughran, Anderson, Rickson, Shapiro”

On the Council Agenda for 03/05/18 is Consideration of the Following Actions Related to the Possible Amendment of the City Charter –

Read the Staff reports by clicking on the items below: 

a. Approval of a Resolution Proposing Amendments to the City Charter Modifying Term Limits for the City Council, Eliminating the 25% Cap on the General Fund Reserve, and Amending Sections Related to the Filling of Vacancies on the City Council and Board of Education

b. Approval of a Resolution Calling a Special Municipal Election for June 5, 2018, Requesting the Consolidation of the Special Municipal Election with the Statewide General Election, and Adding a Measure Relating to Amendments to the Charter of the City of Piedmont

03/05/18 – Consideration of Options Regarding a Direct Argument and a Rebuttal Argument Regarding the Charter Amendment Measure on the June 5, 2018 Ballot 

One Response to “Council Did Not Appoint a Charter Review Committee as Was Done in 1977 Prior to Moving Ahead on Charter Changes”

  1. The City Charter revisions discussed at the February 5 Council meeting certainly warrant a citizens committee. Elimination of a cap on City reserves and changes to the authority of the City Administrator are substantive changes to how Piedmont operates and certainly rise to the level of committee discussion. The cap on reserves, the proposal that opened up the discussion of Charter review last year, was not even discussed at the last meeting yet is now being proposed for the June ballot.

    What possible reason could Council have to be acting so quickly on these measures? Regarding extending the term limits, at the last meeting the City Attorney gave lengthy justifications on this and “grandfathering” considerations but none of that is included in the current staff report on this matter. Perhaps that analysis was found to be incorrect. By supporting the term limit changes, the three council members have created a conflict of interest in that they are limiting the pool of candidates who can run against them. Another reason to put these matters on what will be a very light June ballot is that such elections have historically low turnout and voter interest.

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