Ballot measure 2A requires a supermajority vote for major changes to city departments
Local ballot measure 2A proposes updating the city charter requiring all Craig City Council members be present and have a supermajority vote to create, change or abolish a city department.
For the last few years, city officials have been working to shore up the city charter, which outlines the powers council has and the processes to carry those out. Craig Mayor Ryan Hess said the charter hasn’t had any significant revisions in over a decade, and a charter review committee was created to review and propose changes.
The committee included representatives from City Council, local law enforcement, community members, and the city attorney. Any changes to the city charter must be approved by Criag voters through a ballot measure.
Ballot measure 2A proposes that to create, change or abolish a department, City Council would need to pass an ordinance with a supermajority vote. If passed, the measure would require that all council members are present to make a major change to a department, and the ordinance would require five out of seven votes.
“What I wanted to do was limit the local government’s power to create new departments. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it as hard as I would like to,” council member Paul James said. “My reasoning there is that any time there is a new department, that budget will likely never go away, so it ties the hands of future councils.”
The main goal behind the change, Hess explained, is to protect the integrity of the council and prevent a minority of council members from making large changes.
With how the charter is written, City Council can make large department changes with a majority vote of the members present at any regular meeting. Four council members is considered a quorum, which means that City Council could make departmental changes with only three votes.
“Hypothetically, you could call a special meeting when you knew certain people were going to be out of town and you could do whatever you want,” Hess explained. “There are other councils — not here — where people don’t show up to a meeting in order to avoid voting on large changes.”
Discussions about modifying the charter date back to at least 2019-20, when there were talks of adjusting departments or creating new ones.
“Anytime you create a department, it creates more operation and management costs for the city,” Hess said, adding that the charter review committee discussed several different options to address the issue.
During initial discussions, James did not want the city to have the exclusive power to create or change departments without sending it to voters. But the committee decided against using a ballot measure to make these changes because it would create a lag in the budget approval process.
For example, Hess said, if the state were to mandate a program where a new department needs to be created or changed, then council wouldn’t be able to create a department or hold a special election in time to get a budget approved by the end of the year.
Even as a home rule charter, if the state were to pass an election legislature and declare it a matter of statewide concern, the city would have to follow it.
“These are all things we discussed in the charter review,” Hess said. “If we put (department) changes to a vote, we couldn’t get an approved budget.”
The charter review committee discussed options for how to limit City Council’s ability to make changes with a simple majority vote, including requiring a unanimous decision for department changes. Hess said that three council members were in favor of requiring a unanimous vote, but four favored a supermajority vote.
After a workshop in June, proposing a supermajority vote was the solution the committee decided to propose.
“I’ve always been about limiting government power, and this is an unfortunately small step,” said James. “A lot of the things I’ve seen people address to me that I feel are egregious — I can’t change those. But I am trying to focus on improving things locally.”
Measure 2A will be included on the Nov. 8 election ballot for voters who live in Craig. Hess said that next year, voters may see similar measures to require a full council to adopt the city budget.
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