Yesterday afternoon the Santa Ana City Clerk posted a notice of a Special Meeting of the Santa Ana City Council to discuss a proposed Charter Amendment to establish mayoral term limits. This is type of major initiative and would usually garner a great deal of public comment. Logic would suggest that such proposals would have a little more than 24 hours notice so that the public could comment. But for the city, with delusions of transparency, 72 hours notice is apparently too much.
On July 17th an Ad Hoc Committee of Council Members Vincent Sarmiento, and Michele Martinez met in private to consider changes to the city charter that would amend mayoral and council member term limits. The committee reviewed the current term limit language and directed staff to prepare language that would limit the Mayor to serve either 1) four two-year terms or 2) two four-year terms effective with the commencing Mayor elected at the November 6, 2012 election and 3) alternatively to establish an appointed Mayor system with the Mayor being selected from amongst seven councilmembers. The seventh council member seat would be elected at-large in the city.
The Ad Hoc Committee discussed the draft language proposals and approved the three options to be presented to the Council for consideration and selection of one to be placed on the November 6th election ballot. Here is the link to the Agenda and Staff Report.
The California Elections Code requires that the Charter Amendment resolutions be approved by the council and submitted to the Registrar of Voters by August 10, 2012 in order to be placed on the November 6th ballot.
The City has a regularly scheduled meeting on August 6th, and according to the staff report, the decision to present these proposals to the City Council for consideration was made on July 17th. Apparently, City staff was unable to add the matter to the agenda for consideration at the July 23rd regularly scheduled meeting of the Council. In fact, there was no mention at all that any progress had been made at the July 23rd meeting. Given these facts, a cynical person might conclude that the Ad Hoc Committee didn’t want the public to have much time to consider the proposals and formulate informed commentary for Council consideration.
While it is certainly legal for the City Council to call a Special Meeting (with only 24 hours notice) to discuss the proposed Charter Amendments, it appears that the city had plenty of time available to provide the customary 72 hours public notice of the meeting. Furthermore, the City did not schedule the meeting at a time that would allow for maximum public participation. Normally Council meetings start at 5:45 p.m., this Special Meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Under current meeting rules, in order to speak participants would need to be present at the beginning of the meeting and submit comment request cards prior to the commencement of public comment in order to be recognized. Having the meeting at 4:30 p.m., before many residents even get off of work, may significantly limit public participation. Since the meeting only had 24 hours notice, and was not noticed through the city’s regular email notification system, it is likely that many wishing to comment have not even received enough advance notice to rearrange their schedules to attend.
While it is commendable that the committee is actually proposing term limits for the Mayor position, it is disappointing that the City has failed to provide sufficient notice to its residents to allow informed comment.
Should the any of the proposals be submitted to the voters for consideration and approved in November, the reign of Mayor Miguel Pulido would come to an end no later than eight years.
Thus far, Councilman David Benavides has announced his candidacy for Mayor and both he and Councilman Sal Tinajero have pulled nomination papers to run for Mayor. Miguel Pulido has also pulled papers to seek reelection as Santa Ana Mayor. Here are the reports from Voice of OC and the Orange County Register regarding the mayoral race.