City Council Chastises City Attorney
on Charter City Text
Emeryville City Attorney Mike Biddle drew strong reactions from Council members at last Tuesday's City Council meeting as they heard him explain he could not produce a short and focused ballot initiative text to forward to Emeryville voters this November as he had been so directed by them. Mr Biddle's presentation, produced during the two weeks before Tuesday's meeting, was revealed to be 12 pages of dense legal verbiage. It was as concise as he could make it he told the Council members.
At the previous meeting the City Attorney had been directed, in a unanimous Council vote, to pattern Emeryville's proposed Charter City initiative on that of neighboring city's charters, some only a few paragraphs long.
The Charter City initiative is being forwarded to Emeryville voters by the City Council in hopes of enacting a real estate transfer tax in response to a critical loss of revenue for City Hall after the Redevelopment Agency was shut down by Sacramento two years ago. The City Manager has shown how City Hall no longer has the funding to properly maintain the infrastructure already in place in
|Emeryville City Attorney Mike Biddle|
Chastised by City Council
Emeryville is currently a 'general law' city, a legal construct that gives more power over local matters to Sacramento. A charter city conversely gives more power to the local voters and would, in the case of what the Emeryville City Council is directing in a November election, enable them (the voters) to OK a transfer tax, something not legal for general law cities.
The City Council was adamant that the language for the Charter City initiative be "short and focused" as Councilwoman Nora Davis indicated. Mr Biddle was directed to draw up language for the voters approval in November that would make it clear that the current laws guiding the City would remain unchanged but that a real estate transfer tax be initiated at a rate of $14 per $1000 of assessed valuation, two dollars less than the existing transfer taxes of Oakland and Berkeley. Emeryville now only gets $.55 per $1000, the legal maximum for general law cities.
The Council told the City Attorney they wanted the initiative to be as short as some neighboring cities have done because a long and arcane text in the voter guide would unnecessarily confuse voters and would likely draw NO votes based on ignorance. Mr Biddle explained Tuesday that he had heard what the Council had directed him to do but he felt compelled to "add some meat" to the spare template language proffered by the Council after he conferred with colleagues.
Mayor Jac Asher summed up the Council's frustration with the City Attorney, "This will look like 12 pages of change [to the voters]" she said.
The Council instructed City Attorney Biddle to go back and bring them a much shorter text, regardless of his reservations.