Is A Charter Review Committee Process Necessary To Amend The City Charter?

The Anaheim City Council will consider establishing a charter review committee to conduct a series of public hearings and )presumably) generate proposals for charter amendments to place on the November 2024 ballot.

One question that hasn’t really been asked is why?

It’s a valid line of inquiry.

The primary reason seems to be process oriented. There have been five charter review committees since Anaheim became a charter city in 1965. The last charter review committee process was in 2013. The impetus is apparently that it’s time to do it again, whether necessary or not.

When the last charter review committee was established, there was an expectation it would tackle the charter’s term limits provisions: the way it is written, a sitting councilmember can only run for mayor in the middle of or at the end of their first term.

In the end, the charter review committee left that part of the charter untouched, but did recommend putting the elimination of term limits on the ballot (a recommendation the council rejected).

The council voted to put three of the charter review committee recommendations on the June 2014 ballot (state law has since barred ballot measures from the primary election ballot):

  • Changing the mayoral term from four to two years (defeated by voters)
  • Legalizing safe and sane fireworks (approved by voters)
  • An amendment enacting a bucket of government efficiency reforms (approved by voters)

However, the city council doesn’t need a charter review committee process to pursue changes to the charter. AT any time, councilmembers can vote to place charter amendments before the voters.

The charter amendments establishing districts elections and expanding the council were placed on the November 2014 ballot as part of settling the CVRA lawsuit against the city.

In 2015, the city council placed on the November 2016 ballot a charter amendment sponsored by Councilwoman Kris Murray to raise the vote threshold for the city council to put tax measures on the ballot. The “Anaheim Taxpayer Protection Act” was subsequently approved by voters.

What a charter review committee process does do is create opportunities for special interests to press for charter amendments under the guise of “community stakeholder’ support.

OCCORD and UNITE-HERE, for example, are adept at mobilizing “community members” to attend public hearings with scripted demands for specific policies. It’s a pretty safe bet they’ll roll out their newly minted “Neighborhood Unions” with a set of charter change demands if this process moves forward.

If there are charter amendments that council members would like to propose, a lengthy charter amendment process isn’t necessary to do it.

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