Committee trims Craig city charter


Voters should have an easier time studying the city's charter in November than they did in 1956, when it was originally on the ballot.

Then, 15 charter articles were detailed in 37 pages.

But when an eight-member review committee is finished, it will have trimmed 10 pages and at least one full article from the city's governing document.

The committee, established in August, has nearly completed its task of updating the city's charter. It was last updated in 1991.

The committee this year focused mainly on eliminating redundancies, wordiness and items already addressed in state law, committee chair Pam Foster said.

The committee also eliminated sections dealing with corrupt practices and conflicts of interest, subjects the city's policy and employee manual already cover, committee member Jim Hershberg said.

"The trend of making charters shorter and simpler may catch some people's attention," he said. "We're sticking to basic nuts and bolts. You don't want potential snafus written into a charter. Because changes have to be approved by voters, you go by ordinance instead of going back and forth to voters."

Voters' may be concerned about the shorter charter, Hershberg said.

The committee also removed a section of the charter that limited the city to assessing a maximum of 25 mills per dollar. A mill is one-tenth of one cent.

The Taxpayers Bill of Rights, passed in 1992, requires that voters approve all tax increases, making a limit unnecessary, City Manager Jim Ferree said.

The city's levy is 18.996 mills for each dollar of assessed valuation.

Among other changes, the review committee added a provision that allows the city to lease surplus water rights and also requires that the city post certain actions on its Web site. The proposed charter also requires that the city manager and city attorney live in Craig or the surrounding area.

The committee also removed articles regarding planning and zoning and public and local improvements.

State law already covers those issues, City Attorney Kenneth Wohl said.

No changes were made to the charter's eminent domain section, which gives the city the power to acquire property by condemning it and compensating the property owner. Hershberg said that also could be an issue with voters considering the nationwide interest in eminent domain.

Other changes of note include:

n The charter now defines the characteristics of an ordinance passed at an emergency meeting. The only existing limitations are that such an ordinance deal with public peace, health or safety. The recommended change is that the ordinance not levy taxes, not deal with a franchise, not change the rates charged by a public utility or not authorize the borrowing of money. Also, the emergency ordinance will automatically be repealed in 61 days.

n A provision that prohibits residents from petitioning to have an initiative or referendum on the ballot that deals with the budget, capital programs or any ordinance relating to the appropriation of money, the issuance of bonds, the levy of special assessments or salaries of city officers and employees.

n If approved, five residents must form a petitioner's committee to launch an initiative, referendum or recall. As it stands, 10 residents form a petitioner's committee.

In the case of a recall, petitioners must state their reasons in 100 words or less instead of 300 words or less.

At its Jan. 18 meeting, the charter committee will review the changes to make sure they're consistent and that nothing was overlooked.

The recommended changes likely will go before the Craig City Council next month, which will make the decision to place them on the November ballot.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or

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