Local ballot issues feature tweaks to charter, one of which is significant
On Election Day, the City of Craig will ask for your permission for some badly needed updates to its charter, and…
Wait. Did we lose you ALREADY? Oh my goodness. Look, we know the charter doesn’t have the fireworks of perhaps the presidential race, but look, it’s important. The charter is essentially the city’s constitution, and parts of it are outdated.
‘“They are archaic,” said City Attorney Heather Cannon. “They are really old. We are trying to revise them to best fit what’s happening in Craig.”
As you surely know by now, Craig will undergo a pretty massive transformation when the coal plant closes in a few years, and so the city hopes to adjust with three tweaks to the charter and one significant one, at least according to Cannon.
Let’s start with the most significant change.
Question 2B — This would change the amount of time a replacement would stay on the council. Now anyone selected to fill a vacant seat has until the next election. But this change would allow replacements to serve out the remaining term of the councilwoman or councilman they replace.
There are good reasons for this, Cannon said, starting with the fact that the city will have to fill three vacancies in two years when Tony Bohrer wins his District 1 seat for the Moffat County Commission (he is running unopposed). It’s possible, then, in the next election that the city would have to fill seven seats in the next municipal election. Under normal circumstances, three or four seats are up for grabs, and it would remain that way if replacements could serve out the terms of the people they replace.
“It staggers it out more,” Cannon said.
This change would also allow the Mayor to be the tie-breaking vote between candidates to fill a vacant seat if there’s no consensus. The reason for that, Cannon said, is to save the city the trouble of a special election to select the candidate. True, that doesn’t allow the public to select a candidate if there’s a tie, but those special elections cost $25,000-$50,000 and a lot of staff time, and the Mayor usually knows the candidates well by then.
“This one really cleans up how they are filled,” Cannon said.
2E — Now the mayor must give a State of the City address in the first quarter of the year. This change would allow the mayor give it sometime during the year.
“Sometimes we have a lot of things happen at the end of the year and not the beginning,” Cannon said. “This allows us to choose when we give an update.”
2C — This would allow the City Manager to live up to 10 miles outside the City of Craig’s limits.
The city still wants a city manager to live in the area. That not only establishes trust, it establishes buy-in from the manager and gets them involved.
“We want them paying taxes here and eating in our restaurants,” Cannon said.
But the requirement for city managers to live in the actual city was confining, especially to an area with residents who value open space and acres of land to keep horses, livestock or perhaps a place to hunt. Rather than that limit the pool of applicants in case Craig needs to find a new city manager, the new law could be an asset, as the city could recruit and use the ability to build a home on open land as a carrot. The city manager would also have six months to establish a residence in Craig or Moffat County.
2D — This gives Craig’s Municipal judge six months to establish residency in the city once he or she is hired.
2F — This still establishes a residency requirement for the city attorney, but it gives a bit more leeway as well. The attorney would have six months to establish a residence, giving the city more time and freedom to recruit candidates outside the city, rather than look at the handful of licensed attorneys currently living in Craig.
The idea behind 2D and 2F is to stop putting restrictions on the candidates the city can hire. If approved, the city could look anywhere, really, for a good candidate.
There are other changes as well: If the city hires a firm to handle its legal duties, that firm must open an office in Craig in six months as well. If the city can’t find a good candidate, it could contract out those legal duties for up to a year while trying to fill the position.
Cannon has no plans to leave, but these issues came up when the city hired her in June. She already was a resident of Craig for at least seven years now, but it did bring up discussion about what could happen.
“It’s important that this person be vested in our community,” Cannon said. “That’s not something we want to contract out to other residents who have different philosophies and a different lifestyle than ours. But Moffat County has a small number of attorneys who live here.”
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