2013 Charter Review Committee Meeting Minutes – Nov. 6, 2013

Citizen Minutes        Charter Review Committee

Nov. 6, 2013

Citizen Comments:

Paul Bingham urged the group not to abandon the publishing requirements in the Charter in favor of electronic posting.  He mentioned the permanent record that a newspaper provides versus technology that is constantly changing and can lead to data being deleted over time.

Bingham asked for clearer language than “periodic” saying twice a year would meet the definition of periodic. He favored a schedule that was spelled out and thus would need to be followed.  (This was in reference to changing the requirements of a monthly finance report to periodic reports presented by Doug Farmen at the previous meeting.)

He also asked the committee to reconsider the abandonment of the list of employees and their salaries being published once per year at the beginning of each year.  Staff has recommended that the names be left off the list and only positions published.  (As a note:  this is the first year that the Charter requirement has not been met.  City Manager Penny does not believe he has to fulfill the Charter requirement but we have no idea what legal basis he believes he has for ignoring the Charter requirement.  The Council has not enforced this Charter requirement either.)

Bingham concluded his comments by stating his preference for keeping the 5 affirmative votes in the Charter when the council wants to transfer any unencumbered appropriation from one department, office or agency to another.   Staff has recommended the elimination of the five votes in favor of four.  (This mechanism kicked in when the Council made a resolution to transfer the Water Fund money, $11,000,000.00 to fund the new police building.  Rather than a 4/3 vote to approve a 5/2 vote was needed to approve that particular transfer of money.  Just another safeguard on behalf of the citizens and their tax dollars.)

Carol Brzeczek agreed with Paul on the 5 affirmative votes stating that it wasn’t hurting anything by remaining in the Charter and she thought it was appropriate to have a required super majority to move $11 million – not an insignificant amount of money that was appropriated for one use and subsequently used in another manner.

Brzeczek asked the committee to consider putting a 30 day residency requirement for Littleton elections into the Charter rather than leaving the reference to state statute.  This past election followed Title 1 which had been changed in the last legislative session by HB1303 leaving the residency requirement for voting in Littleton’s election to 22 days in the state of Colorado and 0 days in the city – in other words, someone could move to Littleton from Castle Rock on election day and vote in Littleton’s election.  She thought we should protect our elections by writing into the charter our residency requirements rather than deferring to state statute.  She stated that the prevailing wisdom is that the legislature will attempt to correct what they messed up with HB 1303 by making all elections subject to the 22 day in state residency requirement – that would be the only requirement for voting in any election in Colorado.

Pam Chadbourne asked the committee to consider the citizens point of view.  She thought they would be calling on staff for information and the committee would drive the process but that is not happening.  The Charter should provide a separation of power and a check and balance – it is written for the citizens not the staff.  Do not write it to facilitate the ease of city council or the staff.  She also reiterated Paul’s comment on publishing in the Littleton Independent – do both – post and publish.

Joycelynn Strait also asked that the committee to keep the citizens in mind during their process of revision.  She believed that most of the members of the committee had been involved in local govt processes and was concerned that they would overlook the viewpoints of the citizens in favor of staff. 

 

As a result of that perception each member stated his or her previous involvement.

  • Former Councilmembers – Sally Parsons, Susan Thornton, Stew Meagher
  • Former Board and Commission Members – Norm Brown, Kevin Kostoff
  • New to Local Govt – Steve Brainerd who admitted to his confusion about the process.  He was uncertain as to the exact function of the committee.  He thought they were to take a fresh looks at the Charter  and although he appreciates the input from staff he would not be dependent on their input for a platform.
  • Karen Millspaugh who is an active member of the TrailMark HOA
  • Leonard Rice who incidentally stated that he appreciated the public comment as it was useful to know why something is included in the Charter
  • Kimberly Field who was happy to be there as a citizen.  I believe she said she has never been to a council meeting.
  • Bill Long a retired military man and stated he was new to this.
  • Tom Wooten who had a role in the city’s new Economic Development Plan and met with the Planning Board in one of their workshops in the development of the Complan.
  • Others – Don Schiff who is a retired pediatrician and former school board member. Joe Rice, absent – former CO State Rep, Brian Vogt also absent.

Before the meeting discussion began there was discussion about process.  Norm Brown had invited Jerry Sweeney to come and address the committee at their prior meeting about the importance of publishing notices in a newspaper of record.  Apparently there were some feathers ruffled that Mr. Sweeney was there at the table with the committee.   (Brown had invited him to be there and when he arrived, a few minutes late, the only unoccupied chair was at the conference table with the committee.  He missed the public comment section of the meeting and he was not held to the same standard as other citizens.  This was the irritant.)  A memo from the Chair, Sally Parsons, was sent to each member stating the apparent need to review their process.   Brown noted that if Sweeney had arrived on time there would have been 3 of the committee’s members that would not have heard his remarks.  He also mentioned the lack of any seating for citizens and that he rounded up chairs for those that were present.  Brown said he would continue to invite guests to use their 4 minutes to address the committee if he thought they had good experience and a valid opinion.  He thought the more input from the citizens the better.

Rice said it was a good civics lesson and they all should be serving as conduits for their districts.

 

Emails referred to above are copied here for you.

From: sally parsons [mailto:shparsons@live.com] 


Sent: Thursday, October 31, 2013 12:15 PM


To: Becky A. Phye


Subject: Charter Review Committee

From:  Littleton Charter Review Committee Chairman 
   

To:  All members of the committee and staff
 


Evidently I must, again, state our committee process. 
 
In order for the committee to operate as a cohesive group and conduct business in an orderly way– Please
direct questions and requests via Becky Phye and thus to all committee members.  Individuals are not to go directly to any staff person in order to bypass the agenda, the committee process or to invite someone to testify on an issue.  Our meetings are open to citizens to observe and they are given an opportunity to speak (4 min.) at the beginning of our deliberations.
 
It is the responsibility of the City Council to conduct a public hearing should they decide to act on our advice in the future.

——————- 

From: nbbrown@comcast.net [mailto:nbbrown@comcast.net] 


Sent: Monday, November 04, 2013 5:55 AM


To: Becky A. Phye
Subject: Charter Review

 Ms. Phye,

I trust you will share this with all, and post it to the portion of the Web site that concerns the Charter Review commission.

In the future, could you also send an e-mail when the draft minutes are posted?

Thank you

Norm

————– 

Apparently I need to correct a misconception.

I invited Mr. Sweeny  to attend and offer his perspective during the time allowed for citizen input.

As a courtesy I informed Chair Parsons and the City Manager, since I was not sure either knew him by sight, and it would have been nice to have him introduced to the Commission.

Clearly not all of the commission members recognized him.

It was unfortunate he arrived late, and I appreciate the value you placed on the information and respect for the person over meeting protocol.

I note that if he had been on time the members of the Commission who were late would have missed, his comments. However, he also would most likely restricted his comments to publishing vs. posting.

He also would have been able to find a seat with the citizens in attendance, if there was a better venue and the public who attend weren’t  responsible for providing their own seating by finding and bringing chairs from adjacent rooms.

I remain convinced that there are valid opinions and valuable experience that arise from beyond the employees of our city.

I have every right to contact anyone I feel would have valuable input. I will continue to suggest to those people that they attend and express their views during the time for public input.

I also have suggested that people share their opinions with Commission members. I have received such input. I value it.

The lack of interest from the staff in a microphone that is reliable through an entire meeting, and the lack of a recording of the meetings (except by a citizen) is a concern.

I believe meeting should be conducted for the benefit of the members to facilitate their interaction, then for the benefit of the public for their understanding of the process and conclusions.

 Furthermore, You should all understand that I have had discussions with City staff, including the Clerk, City Manager and with members of Council, concerning Charter issues, (not exclusive of the Ballot issues) that extend back far before the inception of this Commission.  

It is perhaps part of the reason Councilman Taylor ask me to participate.

Nevertheless, I have no obligation to terminate those discussions. I believe more information rather than less, from a diversity of sources, is the best path to good decisions.

You may rest assured I look forward to sharing comments and information all sources.

 

        Thank you for your attention

         Norm Brown

Approval of Minutes –

Millspaugh did not think decisions had been made as reflected in the minutes.  Brown agreed and thought the language should be changed to “the committee completed the discussion” or something similar and a general note at the end of the minutes indicating that nothing had been finalized.

Brown had suggested that the Prefatory Synopsis and Preamble from the original Charter be added back into the Charter.  Wendy Heffner, city clerk, said the Prefatory Synopsis just disappeared in 1976.  Littleton started using Sterling Codifiers at that time and it just did not get included.  It was never officially removed.

Minutes were not approved and will be revised and brought back for approval.

Charter Sections – follow link to view the document with recommended changes

Heffner stated that she was there to provide input, a place to start, and to make recommendations from her office on changes to the document that they use everyday.

There were no changes suggested for Section 1 – 9.

Heffner gave a brief background to HB1303 and the 30 day residency requirements.  HB1303 was rushed through the legislature in an effort to make a single state residency requirement.  Title 31,  is the guiding document for our local elections as stated in our Charter.  But, within Title 31 there is a section that allows the council to use Title 1 in a coordinated election.  As a result she would like to add the Uniform Election Code (Title 1) in the Charter.  (The result of this change would mean 0 days residency requirement for all Littleton elections.  The only residency requirement would be 22 days in the state of Colorado.)

Section 11 addresses the election commission, which currently consists of 3 members – two citizens and the city clerk. She suggested changing the makeup of the committee to 5 electors and make the city clerk a non-voting member.

Section 14.  Absentee Registration – no change.

Section 16. – currently the Charter gives the election commission the authority to determine the method of voting on “all proposals and election of candidates”.  Heffner suggested that the City Council should have that authority.

Section 17.  Absentee Voting – no change.

Field asked about the residency requirement and HB 1303.  Heffner told her that the lobbyists from CML (Colorado Municipal League) will be working to get the problems with HB1303 rectified by making Title 1 and Title 31 the same…..that’s the 22 day in-state residency requirement.

Heffner told the committee that the voting requirement in this past election was 22 days in the city.  (This statement is in disagreement with an email I have from Heffner that states – “The new laws enacted from HB1303 say you must live in the State for 22 days before the election to be a qualified elector.  You can register up to and on the day of the election as long as you have lived in the State for 22 days.”)

Section 20, which was just passed by the voters to use the census data to realign the four voting districts in Littleton.  Heffner suggested that there be some sort of cursory review every five years.  Brown reminded her that this was just addressed at an election and there was a two-year moratorium on any changes to what was just passed by the voters.

Kristin Schledorn, deputy city attorney, thought they should forward the suggestion to the council and they may not act on it immediately.

Section 23. change would require a citizen to live in a district for one year prior to running for council in that district.  This would change the Charter to requiring one year residency for at large any where in Littleton and a one year residency required in a particular district.  Long asked what defined a “qualified” elector.  Discussion followed on the age requirement for running for council. Charter states 21 years of age.  Question was asked when the voting age changed from 21 to 18.

Parsons wanted to go back to Section 22. Terms in Office.  She believed that there should be 4 years recess in between a term-limited councilperson before that person can run for council again.

Thornton wanted to restrict candidates from serving if they are members of a special district.  Wooten said why do we care?  A Broomfield employee could be a valuable member of council.   Thornton thought they should look at what other cities do and come back to take another look.

Section 23.  Field asked what happens if redistricting takes place and redistricts a member of council – that is not addressed.

Meagher wanted to discuss the direct election of the mayor and thought there was some merit to that beyond the confusion of President/Mayor.  The current structure creates tension among those that want to be mayor and taints their effectiveness for the rest of the term.

Parsons thought a direct elected mayor would give legal power to the office.   She respected the council to elect their own officer rather than setting up opposing factions.  “Mayor” is a term of introduction – it is their responsibility to get along with each other.  Someone needs experience of being a city council member before becoming a mayor.  This is the difference between a home rule city and a statutory city.  The current practice can cause hard feelings but can create unity too; politics is politics.

Section 31. currently states that the city council shall approve the appointment of the city clerk once appointed by the city manager.  This is not done in practice.  The “approval by council” is recommended to be deleted.

Schledorn explained the difference between publishing and posting.  She provided the committee with a memo that is not on the city’s website.  I will retype it so it can be included in these minutes.

 

 

To:      Charter Review Committee Members

From:  Kristin J. Schledorn, Deputy City Attorney

Date:   November 6, 2013

The Charter Review Committee has been asked to examine and provide a recommendation on the Charter’s posting requirements and procedures.  These intersect with a variety of areas in the City Charter, including ordinance and code adoption, financial reporting, and public meetings.  Black’s Law Dictionary defines posting as “a publication method, as by displaying municipal ordinances in designated localities,” while it defines publication as “the act of declaring or announcing to the public.”  Traditionally, publication has referred to notice provided in a newspaper, while posting has referred to notice affixed in a designated public place.

As a point of comparison, the Colorado statutes contain dozens of references to publication and posting, and include a variety of requirements and procedures with respect to each.  Generally, the statutes will indicate whether posting or publication is required (though sometimes both, in addition to other means of providing notice), and then specify the parameters of how each is to occur (location, number of locations, timing prior to event, length or number of times of posting or publication, etc.).  The statutes that the City most often encounter use the term posting to refer to a designated place within the boundaries of the City (the Open Meetings Law) and the term publish both in reference to “an official paper or paper of general circulation in [the City]” (for notice of zoning hearings, C.R.S. Sec. 31-23-304) and in reference to inclusion of information on a government website (for notice from the Secretary of State of updated amounts under the Colorado governmental Immunity Act and state medical marijuana licensing authority reports).  Interestingly, it is unclear whether publishing or posting is the appropriate term to use with respect to websites.  The statutes use both terms, publish and post, to describe information that is to be included on websites.

The City Charter can specify which type of notice the City wishes to require, and vary it depending on the topic area.  It may be that different types of notice (i.e., posting, newspaper publication, website publication, postal mail, email, telephone, text message, government access channel, etc.) are appropriate for different topic areas.  The distinction lies in the audience the City is trying to reach on each matter and which method will best draw attention of the matter to the largest number of citizens.  Whether this is best achieved by posting, by newspaper publication, or by some other means (or by some combination thereof) is a policy question of the Committee and Council.

After looking through other municipalities’ charters, two charters that I would recommend the Committee look at are the charter for Wheat Ridge and Centennial, which have expanded their publication/posting requirements to adjust to modern communication practices.  For example, Wheat Ridge’s charter provides that publication of ordinances may be satisfied by “publication in a newspaper of general circulation…, by posting a copy….at the location or locations designated by resolution of the Council, by posting on the City’s website, by posting on the Internet, or in any other manner determined by the Council by adequately advise the public.”  (See, e.g., Sec 5.12(h).  Another example of flexible language is contained in Centennial’s charter, which utilizes the term “publicize” (rather than posting or publication) and requires that it be done “in accordance with the requirements, methods, and procedures for publicizing ordinances as adopted by the City Council by ordinance.”  See, e.g., Sec 7.5(g), 11.12, 11.15©, 11.16(b)(4) and 11.17.  The language in both of these charters ensures that notice to the public will be made avoid any sort of traditional distinction or confusion between the terms posting and publication, and allows for the methods requirements, and procedures to be updated by Council as print formats, digital formats and advances in electronic communications change over time.

Wooten liked the language of the other charters – we need solutions that live longer than we do.  The print business has changed but he did not want to tie to a specific technology.

Brown asked to defer the discussion to the next meeting.

Meeting adjourned.  Next meeting will be at the Littleton City Center in the Community Room on November 20th at 3:00.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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