Elk Grove City Charter Commission Two-Thirds Proposal Could Tie City Hands

During the sparsely attended Elk Grove City Charter Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 5, commissioners voted to add provisions that have th...

During the sparsely attended Elk Grove City Charter Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 5, commissioners voted to add provisions that have the potential of tying the hands of future city councils.

At issue is proposed language that would require a two-thirds majority vote among city council members for any business fee increase. While the proposal may seem benign, it could act to bind the city.

Consider this: if the proposal is adopted and the charter is ultimately approved with this provision and the city council membership is expanded to seven members, any fee increase would require five yes votes for a super majority of 71% (5/7).

Taking this one step further, if the city council decides to have council members elected on a precinct-by-precinct basis (versus city wide for all seats) and members can be elected with a plurality of votes (versus a run-off requiring a majority), three members elected by a mere plurality can clog things up.

With this power, ideologues could be elected to the city council without a popular majority and basically grind things to a halt as it relates to fee increases. It could easily pit one part of town against another part, say the Sheldon v. Laguna West.

This is what has happened with the California state budget process that also requires a two-thirds majority. We all know how well this has worked over the last several years.

According to comments made by commissioners during the meeting, the person most responsible for this, Jake Rambo, was absent. Could Rambo’s motivation be ideological driven?

Admittedly, this scenario may never happen, and if it did, the consequences would not necessarily be as dire as the state’s annual budget fiasco. Nonetheless, once the city council receives the draft proposal, they need to thoughtfully consider each element and the long-term effects of the interplay between all provisions lest we end up with a city charter full of unforeseen consequences.

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