La Mirada city leaders ponder ‘Charter City’ option

Could La Mirada become a Charter City?

Is La Mirada on the verge of becoming a Charter City?

By Randy Economy

After being under the guise of the State of California as a General Law City since its inception 50 years ago, officials are now exploring the idea of dramatically changing the direction of the cash strapped municipality in 2013 by asking voters to declare La Mirada a “charter city.”

Deputy City Manager Jeff Boynton told Mayor Gabe Garcia and members of the city council in a report that changing the way La Mirada is configured and classified from one to the other, would allow for greater local control instead of being bound by the rigors of lawmakers in Sacramento.

Boynton said a charter city’s powers are not defined or limited by the state’s general laws, but rather they are defined by the city’s own charter subject only to the limitations of the State Constitution.  He said 121 of California’s 478 cities are charter cities, including 25 cities in Los Angeles County.

Boynton also told city officials that making La Mirada a Charter City, members of the current and future city councils, rather than state officials would be “in the best position to understand its needs and make decisions to meet its local needs.”

He said city charters legislate in the areas of municipal elections; municipal initiatives, referendums and recalls; procedures for the adoption of ordinances; public contracts; and public financing.

Boynton also said that becoming a charter city could offer the City officials greater flexibility in public works contracts, economic development activities, municipal elections, zoning, and other matters.   Charter Cities are still subject to the general laws passed by the State Legislature on non-municipal affairs that are of statewide concern.

Becoming a charter city would require the adoption of a new city charter by voters.  Members of the La Mirada City Council also has the option of drafting the charter and submitting it to the voters for adoption or  appoint a committee to develop the charter.

If the City Council were interested in placing a charter city measure on the March 2013 municipal election ballot, it would need to pursue the option of drafting the charter on its own or with the assistance of a committee as was done recently with the Citizens Task Force.

A proposed charter measure would need to be placed on the ballot 88 days prior to the election, which is scheduled for March 5, 2013. Due to time constraints, many feel that it is not possible or considered feasible to pursue the charter commission approach for the 2013 municipal election, and that it might have to wait until the March 2015 La Mirada City Council Election.

City Attorney Markman said that charter cities may have an economic advantage because they can offer financial incentives for development,  may modify  rules on the bidding process of projects, and can choose to not require payment of prevailing wage on private development projects.

City Manager Tom Robinson said La Mirada “may be at a competitive disadvantage to neighboring charter cities in the future because they can offer incentives La Mirada can’t offer.”

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