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Voice for Democracy

Newsletter of Californians for Electoral Reform

Summer 2008

Davis Will Vote On City Charter

On July 15 the Davis City Council approved a charter to be placed on the November ballot. If the charter is approved by the voters, the council will be able to adopt choice voting (a.k.a. single transferable vote or STV) by ordinance. Since three of the five council members have indicated their support for choice voting it is likely that it will be adopted if the charter passes.

In March 2005 a distinguished Governance Task Force recommended that Davis adopt choice voting for its council members. CfER members Chris Jerdonek, Bob Richard and Pete Martineau attended and participated in the task force's meetings.

The City Council then asked for an advisory vote of the Davis citizens (Measure L). With the assistance of CfER members and interested Davis citizens, Measure L passed with 54.7 percent of the vote in November of 2006. In addition to people power, CfER also contributed money to the campaign.

Since Davis is a general law city, it could not adopt choice voting. Meanwhile, the State Legislature was considering AB 1294, which would have allowed general law cities to adopt choice voting and IRV. When the Governor vetoed that bill, Davis needed to become a charter city to adopt choice voting.

In April 2007 the Council appointed a subcommittee consisting of Council Members Lamar Heystek and Steve Souza to draft versions of the charter. After several iterations of proposed charters and amendments, the council agreed to a charter to place on the November ballot. CfER members Chuck O'Neil, Bob Richard, Steve Sosnick and Pete Martineau articipated in the development of the charter.

Former Davis Mayor Jerry Adler, a municipal law attorney, was a driving force on the Governance Task Force and in developing the charter. He recommended a very simple charter that does not mention choice voting. He pointed out the state constitution allows charter cities to act on all “municipal affairs” including the "conduct of city elections" which is specifically listed in the State Constitution. Thus, the charter does not need to specifically state that power or mention choice voting. No extraneous provisions that might give people a reason to oppose the charter were included, even though the authors would have liked to have several provisions added. On July 15, in approving the proposed charter, one council member demanded an addition which was added to obtain her vote. Hopefully it will not create voter opposition to the charter.

Aside from giving the city the power to adopt whatever method of voting it wishes, a charter gives the city a great deal of flexibility in other areas. A general law city is limited to what state law allows. Passing a charter gives the city "home rule" powers to continue to be an innovative city.

While council members Lamar Heystek and Steve Souza wanted a unanimous vote, they were satisfied to get a 4-1 vote in favor of placing the charter on the November ballot. The one council member who voted against the charter, Don Saylor, opposes choice voting and will probably campaign against the charter. The current mayor, Ruth Asmundson, opposes choice voting but is in favor of Davis becoming a charter city. She supported the proposal.

CfER has endorsed the proposal and I expect that we will help Davis citizens campaign to adopt the proposed charter. Anyone who wants to help should contact Pete Martineau (Pete Martineau's email address) or Chuck O'Neil (Chuck O'Neil's email address). We will need money as well as time to get the charter approved. Maybe the next Davis City Council election in 2010 will use choice voting.

Chuck O’Neil
Chief Financial Officer

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