Jan. 22, 2014 Charter Review Committee – Citizen Minutes

Charter Review Committee – Citizen Minutes

Jan. 22, 2014

Tom Kristopeit suggested a new section to the Charter on the Comprehensive Planning process for Littleton.  The state law is very weak on comprehensive planning and was written in the 40’s and 50’s when the state was pretty rural.  In lieu of the weak statements from the State, we should make the addition to our Charter.  The current plan is not doing a good job and the citizens expect the plan to be firm.  The newly revised plan is not doing a good job and Michael Penny doesn’t want it to be too specific but leave room for councils to make decisions.  Littleton is developed for the most part and we are just revising the old plan.  Any future development will be redevelopment so we need to start from scratch and it needs to be in the Charter so it gets revised according to the Charter.

Jack Randall told any member of the Charter Review committee that if they did not want to be videotaped during the meetings all they had to do was ask him and he would make sure that the camera was not focused on them when they were speaking.  However, the audio would remain on through the entire meeting.  (I believe Jack made this announcement because the city council decided not to video tape the Charter Review meetings for viewing on Channel 8 because they did not ask the members during the application process if they would mind being taped.)

Pam Chadbourne told the committee that there were several citizens that would like to see their meetings video taped.  The council had voted not to videotape the meetings since none of the members had been asked if it was ok to do so when they were appointed.  She asked the group for their consent.  She concurred with Tom Kristopeit about the planning process stating that our process is broken and has been for a long time.

Paul Bingham thanked staff for finally getting the meeting notices up on the web site. They had been missing until yesterday.

Michael Penny told the group that city council did vote not to tape the meetings but if they wanted to be recorded they could tell council.

Brian Vogt asked if the reason stated by Chadbourne was the only reason sited.

Penny said council had not thought about taping the meetings – it was an over-sight and that in the future televising committee meetings would be part of the discussion.

Vogt favored as much transparency as possible – the work they are doing is important and it would be illuminating for citizens.  Others were in favor of sending the message to council to televise the meetings.  Kent Bagley, Stew Meagher, Steve Brainerd, and Susan Thornton did not want to televise the meetings.  Karen Millspaugh asked if there were financial reasons why the meetings were not televised and Penny said no.  Stew Meagher thought they were well down the road and it wasn’t going to satisfy the concern – it was a very fragmented way to approach it.

Norm Brown thought it would be helpful to anyone trying to decide how to vote once some of the changes make their way to the ballot.  It would be the best place to get back ground information.

Bagley said that council had spoken.  The meetings have been going on since September and trying to back up makes no sense – we will be done in March and it would be an incomplete record.

Tom Wooten said taping half of the process might raise more questions rather than illuminate.  He suggested they continue to do as they have done.

Dr. Schiff asked about the availability of the recordings of the meetings (Jack Randall has been video taping all the meetings).  Penny said the record belonged to a private citizen.  Randall said he would make the tapes available to anyone who wanted them but the quality would not be as good as what Doug could provide using the equipment available to the city.

Meeting minutes were approved.  Dr. Schiff wanted to make certain that whatever work has been done to this point is not final but subject to review and change.

Wendy Heffner, city clerk, reported her findings on when the term of newly elected councilmembers began in other cities – right after the election or at the first meeting in January.  She said it was about 50/50 so not very helpful.  Thornton said it seems to work well the way it is; candidates are educated prior to the election.  Brown agreed that there was no compelling reason to change.

Heffner suggested that they define posting and if the charter states specifically that something should be published that would require publishing in the newspaper of record.

Sally Parsons asked how the newspaper of record was determined.  Heffner said it has always been the Littleton Independent but it will go out for bid.  Only 18% of the population gets the Littleton Independent but she did not know the percentages for the Columbine Courier or the Villager.

Brown mentioned that in the definition of posting they needed to indicate the latitude to include all areas – if there is a disaster the city center may not be accessible, cable can fail, and papers might not be published.

Section 23.  Qualification of Council Members

The discussion centered on whether or not a candidate for council needed to be a registered voter rather than just a qualified voter.  Vogt did not think hurdles should be placed in front of citizens to run for council.  There are lots of people that are not registered and to disqualify them out of hand seems arbitrary.

Kim Field said the residency requirement is becoming a difficult issue.  Are you a resident if you are camping out on someone’s sofa?  Thornton suggested they leave the language as is and use the state law to define eligibility.  Kevin Kostoff said to let the voters decide.

On the subject of a councilmember holding another elected office – appeared to be an opportunity for mischief according to Field.  Whether or not a council member could be an employee of Littleton or other municipality brought different responses.  Bagley thought it removed a whole group of citizens and it made no sense.  Kostoff thought it could be positive to have someone that worked for another city on our council.

Section 24.  Presiding Officer & Section  25. President of the Council Pro Tem

The group favors the President of council be referred to as Mayor and the President of Council Pro Tem be referred to as Mayor Pro Tem.  Then a discussion that has been discussed two other times began again.  Thornton and Bagley picked up the idea of a directly elected mayor emphasizing that the council/city manager form of government would remain.  Penny was asked to bring back information to the group how other cities with a directly elected mayor handle the election.  Parsons, who does not favor a directly elected mayor, said they needed to consider that most councils with a directly elected mayor have an even number of council members so the mayor is the tie breaker.  Brown said a discussion of additional duties would need to be discussed.  They would need to look at the definition of a quorum – there’s more involved in the discussion than just a directly elected mayor.  (Council has discussed this matter this past Fall and decided that they did not want to abandon the current practice of the council members electing the President of the council.)

Parsons said they needed to be wary of a directly elected mayor.  You could get someone without any council experience.  She appreciated the fact when a mayor is elected it is someone with previous council experience who understands the form of government.  When she was on council she thought it was important to have a say in who her leader was.  Thornton said they would come back to the subject later.

Section 27.  Council Meetings

Kristen Schledorn, deputy city attorney, suggested using the term “city center” rather than “city hall” for the location of the meetings.

Section 28.  Vacancies

The Charter states that if there is a vacancy the council shall fill the vacancy within 30 days.  Schledorn suggested, on behalf of city attorney Ken Fellman, additional language that the city clerk shall call for a special election to fill the vacancy if the council fails to do so in the 30 days required.

Wooten thought the additional language provides a split council a way to avoid a difficult situation.  They need to work it out and it would be good to get a polarized council to talk.  Field agreed. Bill Long thought it would benefit them to have to decide.  Brown mentioned the cost of a special election – they should work together to appoint someone not in either camp.  Wooten said if they can’t agree in 30 days then kick them all out.  Thornton said business has to continue and they needed a fall back position.

Vogt said in a county government if a vacancy is not filled the selection falls to the governor.  There needs to be some consequence for not filling the vacancy.

Parsons suggested selecting from the loosing candidates. Penny said there may be others interested.  Thornton suggested they adopt the language suggested.

Section 37.  Voting

Charter requires a majority of the members present on the first reading and a majority of the membership of the entire council on the final passage.  Schledorn suggested that they might want to be consistent with the voting requirements.  Vogt thought the majority of 4 is important regardless of how many members are actually present.  Bagley reminded the group that 5 votes were required for a rezoning.

Section 40.  Procedure for Passage of Ordinance

The Charter requires a full reading of an Ordinance in certain situations.  Since an ordinance is never read except by title it was suggested, by Schledorn, to remove the outdated language.

Section 42.  Disposition  

Charter states that every ordinance adopted by council shall be numbered and recorded etc.  And every ordinance adopted by the registered voters of the city shall be separately numbered and recorded commencing with “Peoples’ Ordinance No. 1.”  Schledorn suggested eliminating the “Peoples’ No. 1” reference since they never use the term.  Brown asked her how she would distinguish an ordinance adopted by the council from one adopted by the citizens.  She had not made the distinction between the two and moved on.

Article VI – Initiative and Referendum

Heffner said this had to be included in the charter but she wasn’t certain all the information needed to be there.  Littleton’s Charter does not allow the city clerk to refer to Title 31 for guidance on an initiative or a referendum and she would like to be able to use Title 31 from the state statutes.  Bagley wanted the change – it would provide security.  Vogt thought it would be helpful for the citizens to have 31 as a reference.

Section 48.  Amendments

States once the voters adopt or reject an initiative or referendum it cannot be revised, repealed or amended except by electoral vote; but council shall have the power to submit a proposal or revise, repeal or amend such ordinances without a petition, provided that the question is submitted at a special election shall not again be submitted within two years thereafter.  Penny told the group that the state requirement is one year and not two.  Wooten said they needed more information.

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