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Murrieta Begins Talks of Changing to Charter City

Though no official action was taken, Murrieta City Council members were presented a time line that if adopted would call for a charter city ballot measure in 2014.

Citing the need for “local control,” Murrieta City Council members on Tuesday gave city staff direction to continue on the path toward the possibility of becoming a charter city.

Though no official action was taken, council members were presented a time line that if adopted would call for a ballot measure in June or November of 2014. Public hearings would need to be held, a charter would need to be drafted, and a city council vote would be required prior to a citywide vote.

What is a Charter City?

Murrieta incorporated in 1991 as a general law city, meaning its powers are derived from the California Constitution as well as ever-changing laws enacted by the Legislature.

A charter city’s authority, however, is derived from the state Constitution as well as an adopted set of bylaws found in the city’s charter, city of Murrieta Senior Management Analyst Brian Ambrose wrote in a report prepared for council.

“The state Constitution provides this transfer of power in regards to ‘municipal affairs,” Ambrose wrote. “As a result, charter cities have certain protections from the whims of overzealous lawmakers.”

Ambrose detailed the pros and cons of Charter City vs. General Law. That segued into a nearly two-hour question-and-answer discussion.

The subject was broached by council in 2009, but went flat when scandal surrounding the city of Bell, a charter city, arose. Many of its officials were being grossly overpaid, The Los Angeles Times first reported.

“The city of Bell tarnished the charter city name, they tarnished a lot of things,” Ambrose said. “And it is a gift that keeps on giving.”

In bringing up what happened in Bell, Murrieta Mayor Doug McAllister said most of the issues that led to the abuse by Bell have since been fixed by the state Legislature.

“It wasn’t the fact that Bell was a charter city that was the problem. The problem was that they abused it,” said Mayor Doug McAllister. “...so we are in a better climate to have that discussion than in 2009.”

The Charter City Movement

New problems faced by many cities, including Murrieta, have prompted a movement among jurisdictions to transition from general law to charter city status, city staff said.

“In just the past four years, the state has deferred payments due to cities, suspended Proposition 1A, eliminated redevelopment and year-after-year approves unbalanced budgets,” Ambrose wrote. “Currently, a (state) measure is on the November ballot seeking to increase revenues through a tax increase in order to balance a budget that will be halfway through the fiscal year...”

Nearly one-fourth of California cities are charters. In Riverside County, these include the cities of Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Norco, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Riverside and Rancho Mirage.

Temecula is also looking into becoming a charter city. According to Murrieta city staff, Temecula recently inquired about possibly joining Murrieta in the effort, for a more regional, comprehensive approach.

Murrieta City Manager Rick Dudley has some experience when it comes to the transition. He was assistant city manager of Vista when in 2007, a charter for the city was approved by 67 percent of voters.

“...We quite frankly had a standing citizens group that was in favor,” Dudley said.

Economic Benefits

Dudley said within the last 10 years, the main reason cities have transitioned to charters has been the issue of prevailing wages.

Under the state Constitution, charter cities are preempted from paying prevailing state wages—wage levels above those commonly paid in the construction industry as a whole—for public projects.

Ongoing contracts such as landscape maintenance are one example of how the wages set by the city could save Murrieta money, Dudley said. More savings could be seen on larger-scale infrastructure projects, he said.

The ability for charter cities to do this was upheld by the California Supreme Court in July when it ruled in favor of the city of Vista in a complaint filed by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California AFL-CIO. The union had sought to require the city to pay prevailing wages for its contracted work.

Charter cities also have greater flexibility in handling public bids and contracts.

“It is to build an economy, it is to build a revenue base,” Dudley said.

This in turn would enable the city to pump more money into its public services such as police, fire, and parks and recreation.

“It is not really about prevailing wage, we are not trying to cut the unions out of this,” said Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gibbs. “It is about a fair wage and affordable price. This is truly about local control. It is primarily to keep the state out of our bank accounts...the state likes to pick our pockets.”

Another plus, city staff said, would be the ability to offer incentives to larger employers interested in coming to Murrieta. This would contribute to the city’s priority of increased economic development.

“At the end of the day...when you have local control it allows us to put our minds together and get more creative,” said Councilman Alan Long. “We need to be as competitive as possible and this provides an avenue to do that.”

Maintaining Transparency

City staff cautioned under charter city status, cities may govern municipal affairs but must still adhere to some state laws.

For instance, a charter city may not exempt itself from the Brown Act—open meetings—or other transparency-related laws.

In addition, Ambrose wrote that many of the recent charters provide anti-City of Bell measures, mostly due “to the fraudulent situation that forever changed local government employee compensation and transparency.”

Council Gives Support

Still, city council members indicated they were in favor of pursuing the possibility.

“This is a good opportunity for us to look at better control of our community,” said Councilman Randon Lane. “I would like to see...Murrieta have an opportunity to vote on this...I hope staff moves in this direction.

Most agreed more citizens would vote on the measure if it were placed on a general election ballot, such as in November 2014.

Councilwoman Kelly Bennett called it another shift to “self-reliance” for the city.

“We are not good at the status quo,” Bennett said. “(In Murrieta) we tend to make things happen for us...so it falls in line with what we do. I think the change factors are significant and for those factors I would support it.”

While some were concerned about the cost of putting the issue on a future ballot, which could range from $18,000 to more than $100,000, they thought it could be a wise investment.

“I would have to quantify that with one word: opportunity,” McAllister said. “It is an entrepreneurial way of doing business as government...I am hoping folks will agree and we move on to a better Murrieta.”

Michael October 03, 2012 at 03:47 PM
How many people in Murrieta actually knew there was going to be a tax increase measure on the November ballot?Perhaps our city leaders should send out a monthly newsletter to let the citizens know what is going on in our city,especially for our senoirs and citizens who dont get the patch.According to Ambrose a measure is on the November ballot to increasure revenues through a tax increase to balance the budget.We have very high property taxes here, sales tax is high,gas prices are high etc..now you want to tax us again,we are being taxed to death!Why not take the lead and cut Department head salaries,city council and Mayor salary etc.drive your own cars to work,not city cars(perks),stop spending money you have,ie:celebrations,summer concerts.
Sam Bradstreet October 03, 2012 at 04:51 PM
So as prices rise across the board in all areas of society, instead of passing on the increases to the taxpayer, the city should cut the quality of running the city, is that right Michael?? Since President Obama has taken over four years ago, your federal taxes have decreased. This means, you have more take home pay. Citizenship is a patriotic duty and part of that is paying taxes. I don't want my city, my state or my country to stop the high quality of services because I can't give more. Tax me. The more we cut, the less we get. I don't see any of our public servants living in massive estates off working for the city. Most are hard working and their services are basically free. $600 a month is NOTHING, compared to the time they give. What we are headed toward is a local government run by less qualified, less experienced citizens. Its easy as a politician to claim they are for less taxation, but during this depression, revenues are key as well as cutting back spending. They go hand in hand, one not more important then the other. We have seen at the Federal level the Tea Party enter Congress with promises of cutting taxes and promises of jobs. We have not seen the promised jobs and at the same time, we have seen less fairness and compromise that has led to many bad things including a loss of the US credit rating. Cutting taxes is not the answer.
The Republican October 03, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Libtards live in a world of very little economic growth where government costs go up faster than the economy grows so we all get bigger chunks of our checks taken away. with higher taxes. Ask anyone that owns a business what will grow their business. Most will say lower taxes and less regulation. We need more people working so the economy grows larger. A smaller tax rate in a growing and larger economy brings in way more revenue than the Libtard world of higher taxes in a stagnate economy. Private economic growth will cover higher government costs. Higher taxes are just a good way to continue a Libtard path to dependency and nowhere. In today's paper it says ALL of us are going to get hit with higher taxes thanks to OBAMA and the Libtard Democraps. The lie that is Obamatard is about to come to an end.
Diane Garver October 03, 2012 at 06:20 PM
You have already opted out of California state laws by banning marijuana dispensaries even though they are legal in Calif. by the voters. You do what you want in Murrieta no matter what the laws are.
Sam Bradstreet October 03, 2012 at 06:40 PM
The rich are being taxed at a rate far below any historic levels. They are still not hiring!!! Corporations are getting so many tax breaks most pay very little in taxes, still they are not hiring. Companies only hire when there is a demand for their products or services. They do not hire people to stand around and do nothing. President Obama, with only 34 days left till the election is winning the electoral college vote by a landslide. Obama-343; Romney-191. Obama leads in every battleground states. As a matter of fact, Republicans are pulling their spending out of Ohio and Penn......as both are seen to have gone to Obama. After the debates it will be all over.......Romney has virtually no chance......as conservatism dies in its failure and culture of hatred and prejudice. Soon posters like Republican will disappear from these blogs. Still waiting for Republican to put out the information he promised that would bring Randon Lane down...........Still waiting Roy.....LOL LOL LOL!!!
The Republican October 03, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Here is what Libtard Democraps will say as we get taxed into oblivion: "It is only 1% more sales tax." 'It is only 5 or 10% more of your gross pay." "It is only 50 or 100 more in property tax." Those increased fees on your phones and utility bills are only 10 or 20 more a month." " It is only a Mcmeal less from Mcdonalds every month" The aftermath of all this retarded Democrap thinking is that all of us have less money to do freely as we want. because 60% and more is taken from us directly and indirectly to fund an out of control government OBAMA fed spending monster that borrows 40% of every dollar spent. We then all have less money to invest; less money for our families; less money to grow businesses. Only backward thinking people advocate higher taxes as a path to prosperity.
Sam Bradstreet October 03, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Obama leading in today's polling Wisconsin by 11 points.....!!! Wisconsin is Ly'in Ryan's home state......what does that say about Ly'in Ryan??? Michigan. Romney's home state is also an 11 point lead for the President. Republicans in their home states don't even support Romney/Ryan.
Sam Bradstreet October 03, 2012 at 06:58 PM
In tonight's debates watch for one thing-- will Romney back up any of his promises with specifics???? So far he promises to cut taxes by 20% across the board and keep revenue's neutral by eliminating tax loop holes.......yet won't say which loop holes he'll eliminate. He promises jobs, but doesn't say how he'll do it. He promises a different medicare and social security plan then Ryan's, but we don't know any specifics. He promises to repel Obamacare and replace but we don't have a clue what he'll replace it with......he said he'll tell you all after the election is over......LOL.
The Republican October 03, 2012 at 07:10 PM
It's pretty simple to cover a 20% tax cut.. Cut off half the lazy turds that are the 47% that depend on government. They can either get a job doing something or wither away.
Sam Bradstreet October 03, 2012 at 08:19 PM
That's right Conservatives hate 47% of the country.......seniors, veterans, disabled, poor, minorities, retired.........those who already finished working are hated by conservatives........lets see how far that goes
The Republican October 03, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Your post made me pretty happy. You can't win on ideas. My kids get aid? What a laugher. They don't qualify ! I am unemployed? Wow I thought i was in the top 5 % ! Maybe I lost my job but you know it but I don't . You are such a lame brain!
Fauntleroy Murphy October 03, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Isn't this article about Murrieta potentially becoming a Charter City? I think Charter would be great for Murrieta. I don't believe we should team up with Temecula. There is a vast difference between the political involvement of the citizens of both cities. Murrieta citizens are on top of the issues, Temecula residents are asleep at the wheel, politically. If Temecula wins "Charter" it could easily become the next Bell. I wouldn't want to see Murrieta associated with that type of issue. I wonder who will be the 1st to call me a racist for my comments?
Sam Bradstreet October 03, 2012 at 09:45 PM
These aren't ideas.......that you cut off 47% of the people for laziness......thats a prejudice, not an idea. You don't even know what an idea is. You haven't told us what specific loop holes Romney will close so he can give everyone a 20% tax cut. WHY??? Because it's an impossibility. There are no ideas to argue against prejudice.
Jennifer McCaughey October 03, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Are you including disabled and retired veterans and retired people on Social Security in your little idea? Because they make up much of that number. And families that lost employment in the recession who desperately want to to work but cannot find a job...a by-product of your man Bush? I don't support welfare bums but that number just infuriates me. It epitomizes a lack of empathy and understanding as well as demeaning a large group of people who have done nothing to deserve the disrespect of being grouped in with the hardcore welfare cases and public assistance mooches.
Jennifer McCaughey October 03, 2012 at 11:20 PM
So you are one of those people who think because the recession hasn't impacted you it must mean the people affected have done something to cause their current situation? Talk about a lame brain! Must be nice to be so smug and insensitive.
Michael October 04, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Sam, I believe our city council members are hard working and I never said they were not.They are only required to attend 1 city council meeting a week,not a bad part time gig for 600 a month plus perks.The quality of service in Murrieta will not be less if the ballot measure doesn't pass in November and will not decay and erode.I think our city leaders need to make better judgements in how our tax dollars are spent.
The Republican October 04, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Obama showed up and was the man we all knew. Weak and small Nobody said cutting offr the whole 47 % . We just want to cut out the part of the 47% that should be working Cutting taxes is only an impossibility in a libtard moron world because libtard morons dont know what to do to grow the economy. MSNBC is in a panic! It was predictable that Obama would lose. His best previous debate opponent was the other empty Democrap...Hillary. Romney is a winner . He just showed what a truly accomplished man is. Obama is an empty fake and it was plainly apparent tonight in the debate.
The Republican October 04, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Smug and insensitive Jennifer? Let me tell you how I was affected by the recession. I lost a business and the seven of the 8 companies I worked for disappeared in a matter of months and left owing me almost 100k. I burned through 100 k trying to save all I had. I lost two houses and went within a grand of being broke. I sold most of what I owned. I took 4 months of unemployment but couldn't live that way so then got off my ass and struggled to retrain myself in a new career and I worked my ass off tor pennies. I am in the position I am in now because recovering was a relentless focus. If you feel sorry for yourself because you get handouts go ahead. I have had no time to pity myself or misfortune . I just set out to fix it at all cost. and at some sacrifice. I didn't wait for handouts to save me.
Jennifer McCaughey October 04, 2012 at 11:11 PM
I am in the exact situation as you are although my losses weren't as great, I did make it through the same way you did, working like hell and cutting anything that wasn't essential out of our lives. We didn't have to go on public assistance, although I went to the food bank and bought a $25 box several times. The difference between you and I is that I realize that I am fortunate even with all that was lost and cannot close my eyes to the people who haven't been able to do what we have, despite trying desperately to find work, any work at all and I'm not going to insult them on top of the misery they are already enduring. Oh, and I have the guts to use my real name when I am expressing my opinion on this forum.
censored messenger October 05, 2012 at 04:04 AM
leave the city alone. Police what we got. With half the homes underwater, we are turning slowly into a Hemet of renters. We need to scrutinize car registration and ID's constantly as well. We also have a influx of criminals from the South, bringing their families. Call Child Protective Services if you see toddlers mistreated.
Jay of Murrieta October 05, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Why are you arguing about the federal politics when the story is about our city going for the charter way rather than what it is now. You guys are pathetic, you can't even stay the course of what the story is all about. It is always the same people too.
Jay of Murrieta October 05, 2012 at 05:44 AM
Going charter is not a bad idea, however transparency must be part of the city governemnt on all aspects of the city government, we don't want problems like the city of Bell.
Becca October 08, 2012 at 11:28 AM
What REALLY bothers me is I see nothing said about $ for our schools. The budget for them is insane! How do you teach these kids anything if you don't have the tools? Our parks are nice. We have police and fire. These kids are our future... don't you think we should invest in them?
DDMH October 27, 2012 at 09:02 AM
Sam, Well said. Thank you for your clarity,sanity, and civility.

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