By Jonathan Morales
Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 4:14 pm in Lafayette.
(Reposting this since story on meeting will run in the CCT this weekend. Scroll down to take a look at the city’s draft charter.)
There was a lot of concern, and confusion, at last night’s Lafayette City Council meeting regarding the possibility of adopting a city charter. A charter is necessary in order for the city to ask voters to increase the real property transfer tax, which the city wants to do because they want the money to fix the roads.
So what’s a charter? Essentially a charter is a local constitution and adopting one gives a city control over what courts have determined to be “municipal affairs.” Cities that haven’t adopted charters are called general law cities and are bound by the state constitution even with respect to municipal affairs.
Or put another way, if a city law and a state law conflict on an issue that falls into that municipal affairs category, in a charter city, the city law trumps the state law.
What’s a municipal affair? That’s a little trickier. According to the League of California Cities:
The California Constitution does not define “municipal affairs.” It does, however, set out a nonexclusive list of four “core” categories that are, by definition, municipal affairs.
These categories are 1) regulation of the “city police force”; 2) “subgovernment in all or part of a city”; 3) “conduct of city elections”; and 4) “the manner in which … municipal officers (are) elected.” Beyond this list, it us up to the courts to determine what is and if not a municipal affair.
The ability to ask the voters to raise the transfer tax is, apparently, also a municipal affair and reserved exclusively for charter cities. Quote of the night nominee courtesy of Mayor Brandt Andersson: “If anyone out there knows why that is please tell us, but I don’t know anyone that does.”
Keep your eyes peeled for a story about the council meeting this weekend in the Times. The council will also be discussing the charter and transfer tax issue at the June 28 and July 12 meetings.
In the meantime, grab a cup of tea, get yourself to a comfy chair and call the children for a family reading of the city’s draft charter, link below.