Revisions proposed in a bill draft request include new procedures for how the city’s mayor pro tem is selected, changes to hiring authority for city department personnel and updates to employment nondiscrimination statutes.
A controversial amendment that would alter the way council members are elected stalled the legislation in 2009, but proponents hope to exclude it this time around.
The amendment provided that “all candidates for council must be voted on in a general election by only the registered voters of a ward the candidate seeks to represent.”
Currently, all registered voters cast ballots for all council candidates regardless of ward residency.
“That is not something the council wanted to do,” Mayor Geno Martini said of the amendment, adding it was proposed without input from city representatives. “It works great the way it is now.”
Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, sponsor of the bill, said that some believe such an amendment would make council races more competitive and less expensive, but that she did not support the change.
If passed, the bill would allow the mayor to nominate and appoint a council member to serve as mayor pro tem, subject to the confirmation of a majority of the council. The process currently allows for any council member to make a nomination.
Some wonder whether the change amounts to a concentration of power, but Martini doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think it is a power move,” he said. “I don’t think we’re changing much.”
Another change would permit the city manager to appoint the heads of departments and make other personnel decisions without confirmation of the council.
Critics believe this move would create a lack of oversight, but Smith isn’t so sure.
“I think there is always checks and balances,” she said, but in an effort to make day-to-day operations run more smoothly, “sometimes you have to hand off authority to do that.”
Smith believes the bill has a good chance of passing and that concern about expanding bureaucracy with new legislation is unfounded. Many laws, including changes to the city charter, are streamlining measures, she said.
Finally, the bill proposes to add “sexual orientation” as a class to the city’s employment nondiscrimination statutes.
When asked why such a change had not already been made, Smith said, “Sometimes it takes a while to gain a comfort level with where things in society are headed.”