Yet another California city will consider asking its citizens to enact a charter to free its municipal affairs from costly state mandates. At its October 2, 2012 meeting, the Murrieta City Council will discuss the idea.
The staff report to the Murrieta City Council about the power of a city charter (sometimes called “home rule”) is strong and vivid:
The City of Murrieta was birthed from the idea that a knowledgeable, involved electorate should both propel and constrain the direction of its own city. Local control has always been a paramount matter of residents, businesses and the Murrieta City Council. Yet state legislators and previous gubernatorial administrations continue to impose far greater mandates, while at the same time hindering the ability of local governments to operate successfully. With little ability to protest, local governments have watched as the state government continues to balance its budget deficits on the backs of fiscally responsible local jurisdictions. In just the past four years, the state has deferred payments due to cities, suspended Proposition 1A, eliminated redevelopment and year-after-year approves unbalanced budgets. Currently, a measure is on the November ballot seeking to increase revenues through a tax increase in order to balance a budget that will be halfway through the fiscal year, with automatic triggers to reduce the school year if the measure fails. Some commentators consider this action akin to holding children and parents hostage during a highly politicized budget debate. Yet attempts to provide a solution to the water crisis, education, realignment, or a host of other crises are sorely lacking. The voice of cities in Sacramento has become mute due to a combination of special interest groups, influential political campaign contributions and tone-deaf lawmakers passing unfunded mandates. This process has left cities with little ability to petition the state government, as evidenced through the City’s complaint regarding new stormwater regulations that will cost millions of dollars to implement with insufficient ability to raise additional funds. Because of the overwhelming demands being placed on local cities throughout California, a movement has begun for local jurisdictions to move from general law city status to charter city status.
This is coming from staff who deal on a practical, day-to-day basis with the operations of the City of Murrieta. As long as the California State Legislature keeps up with its antics, you can expect a flood of proposals in 2014 to voters for the enactment of city charters in California.