By Jonathan Morales
Monday, October 26th, 2009 at 3:41 pm in Uncategorized.
For all you municipal home-rule buffs out there, now’s your chance to take a look at the draft Lafayette city charter. This is the document crafted by the city’s Charter City Committee which will be molded and revised by the City Council and, if they like the finished product, will be sent to the voters for approval next year.
The draft seems to accomplish one goal the council had when they gave direction to the committee a few months ago: Keep it simple. The draft charter is only two pages long and the language generally vague.
There are only two charter cities in Contra Costa County — Richmond and San Ramon — but all Lamorinda cities are taking a look at becoming one. A city’s charter essentially supersedes state law in areas the courts have rule to be “municipal affairs.” One thing they can do, for example, is directly elect their mayor (as in Livermore, where I grew up) or even designate districts for purposes of electing city council members (like in San Francisco or Oakland).
But the main reason why Lamorinda cities, including Lafayette, are looking at becoming charter cities is the ability to increase the property transfer tax, a levy that’s assessed whenever a piece of real property changes hands. General law cities (those that don’t have charters) get just 55 cents per $1,000 of property sold (another 55 cents goes to the state). Charter cities have the option to get more. Piedmont, for example, gets $13 per $1,000, resulting in an average of $2.5 million each year into the general fund.
Lafayette plans to survey residents about both the charter and the property transfer tax.