Antioch City Council Punts Charter City Talk Indefinitely

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Photo by Michael Pohl Photography for ECT use only

On Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council tabled discussion of moving forward with steps for the City of Antioch to move towards a charter city.

Antioch currently is a General Law City and must follow the laws set forth by the California Government Code while Charter Cities have a greater autonomy than general law cities—charter law cities may adopt their own procedures, ordinances, and resolutions for matters that are considered “municipal affairs” in the State of California rather than conform to State law for municipal affairs.

According to the staff report, there are 482 cities in California with 361 who are general law cities and 121 charter cities—which include: Richmond, San Ramon, Oakland, Berkley, Alameda, Albany, Piedmont, San Leandro and San Francisco.

The City of Antioch highlights one benefit of being a charter city is the documentary and real property tax. A charter city has the ability to raise the documentary and real property tax rates beyond the limits for general law cities. The tax is imposed upon the sale of real estate and is set forth by the State. Charter cities, may by the vote of the electorate, raise this tax.

Some of the differences between a general law city versus a charter city:

  • City Council Salary: A general law city council salary is set at a ceiling set by population. A charter city can establish a council salary at any rate.
  • Public Contracts: a general law city has competitive bidding for public works contract over $5k along with other services on competence and professional qualifications. A charter city does not have to comply with bidding statues—it becomes a municipal affair.
  • Real Property Tax: a charter city has the ability to raise the documentary and real property tax rates beyond the limits of general law cities. This would, however, require the vote of the public.
  • Zoning: a general law city must have zoning ordinances consistent with a general plan. Charter cities are not required to be consistent with the general plan unless a requirement is made by the charter or an ordinance created.

Council Discussion

The item was brought forward by Councilmember Lamar Thorpe who advocated for an ad-hoc committee to be created to work on the item. He highlighted how when this first was brought to them by the former city manager, it was to look at the transfer fee.

“From my vantage point, there is a lot to look at. I think if we did do something like this, it would require an ad-hoc committee dedicated to really coming back to the council and say listen maybe this is a good idea, maybe it isn’t a good idea, maybe give us a timeline versus trying to do it up here as the body of the whole,” said Thorpe.

He continued by saying as they keep growing as a city are they going to still be a “teenage government” versus an “adult government” and recommended the ad-hoc committee be created.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts asked about municipal affairs and zoning. She asked if they no longer would have to follow new legislation that came down from the state. The City attorney explained the difference between a statewide concern versus a municipal concern such as housing and what is coming down is what is addressing a statewide concern.

“There has just been a flurry of new legislation and some of it frankly has gone to far. So how do you determine what power it gives a charter city?” asked Motts.

The City Attorney explained the difference between a general law against what would become a municipal law for Antioch should they move forward—a case by case basis.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock said there was a great expense to move forward and they were doing great work right now with what they were doing with the homeless, recreation and youth.

“There is so much that we are asking of staff right now, I personally think this is great that we got it, its information we can look at and maybe down the road at one point once we get all the other stuff in order to come back and address it but I think it should be tabled,” said Ogorchock.

Councilwoman Monica Wilson thanked staff for their report but still needed more information even when looking at San Ramon and Richmond as the two cities in Contra Costa who were charter cities that were both unique and different they had their own reasons for the path of charter city.

“For now, I would just need a lot more information,” said Wilson. “We are working on a lot right now but I need a lot of information and we really need to be very careful. Maybe look at this down the road. This is not a decision we make lightly,  this is not a quick decision we make. Right now, we need to get through what we need to get through but maybe down the road come back to this and revisit this again.”

Mayor Sean Wright explained if the zoning gave them more freedom it might be something he would consider but he didn’t see enough benefit to raise this to a level of priority over the next year.

“We are really losing so much local control right now. Its frustrating how much local control we are losing as cities as the state just mandates law after law our hands get tied to the things that we can actually do,” said Wright. “If it gave us more freedom there, this would definitely be something that I think would be worth looking at. It doesn’t automatically give us that kind of freedom so it doesn’t benefit there.”

Wright then suggested they table the item indefinitely which the council provided that direction to staff.

If Antioch moves forward in the future, a Charter city can only be adopted by a majority vote of the public.

Via the California League of Cities:

CharacteristicGeneral Law CityCharter City
Ability to Govern Municipal AffairsBound by the state’s general law, regardless of whether the subject concerns a municipal affairHas supreme authority over “municipal affairs.” Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5(b)
Form of GovernmentState law describes the city’s form of government For example, Government Code section 36501 authorizes general law cities be governed by a city council of five members, a city clerk, a city treasurer, a police chief, a fire chief and any subordinate officers or employees as required by law.City electors may adopt ordinance which provides for a different number of council members. Cal. Gov’t section 34871. The Government Code also authorizes the “city manager” form of government. Cal. Gov’t Code § 34851.Charter can provide for any form of government including the “strong mayor,” and “city manager” forms. See Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5(b); Cal. Gov’t Code § 34450 et seq.
Elections GenerallyMunicipal elections conducted in accordance with the California Elections Code. Cal. Elec. Code §§ 10101 et seq.Not bound by the California Elections Code. May establish own election dates, rules, and procedures. See Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5(b); Cal. Elec. Code §§ 10101 et seq..
Methods of ElectionsGenerally holds at-large elections whereby voters vote for any candidate on the ballot. Cities may also choose to elect the city council “by” or “from” districts, so long as the election system has been established by ordinance and approved by the voters. Cal. Gov’t Code § 34871. Mayor may be elected by the city council or by vote of the people. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 34902.May establish procedures for selecting officers. May hold at-large or district elections. See Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5(b).
City Council Member QualificationsMinimum qualifications are:

1. United States citizen

2. At least 18 years old

3. Registered voter

4. Resident of the city at least 15 days prior to the election and throughout his or her term

5. If elected by or from a district, be a resident of the geographical area comprising the district from which he or she is elected.

 

Cal. Elec. Code § 321; Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 34882, 36502; 87 Cal. Op. Att’y Gen. 30 (2004).

Can establish own criteria for city office provided it does not violate the U.S. Constitution. Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5(b), 82 Cal. Op. Att’y Gen. 6, 8 (1999).
Public Funds for Candidate in Municipal ElectionsNo public officer shall expend and no candidate shall accept public money for the purpose of seeking elected office. Cal. Gov’t Code § 85300.Public financing of election campaigns is lawful. Johnson v. Bradley, 4 Cal. 4th 389 (1992)
Term LimitsMay provide for term limits. Cal. Gov’t Code § 36502(b)May provide for term limits. Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5(b); Cal Gov’t Code Section 36502 (b).
Vacancies and Termination of OfficeAn office becomes vacant in several instances including death, resignation, removal for failure to perform official duties, electorate irregularities, absence from meetings without permission, and upon non-residency. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 1770, 36502, 36513May establish criteria for vacating and terminating city offices so long as it does not violate the state and federal constitutions. Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5(b)
Council Member Compensation and Expense ReimbursementSalary-ceiling is set by city population and salary increases set by state law except for compensation established by city electors. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 36516. If a city provides any type of compensation or payment of expenses to council members, then all council members are required to have two hours of ethics training. See Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 53234 – 53235May establish council members’ salaries. See Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5(b). If a city provides any type of compensation or payment of expenses to council members, then all council members are required to have two hours of ethics training. See Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 53234 – 53235.
Legislative AuthorityOrdinances may not be passed within five days of introduction unless they are urgency ordinances. Cal. Gov’t Code § 36934.Ordinances may only be passed at a regular meeting, and must be read in full at time of introduction and passage except when, after reading the title, further reading is waived. Cal. Gov’t Code § 36934May establish procedures for enacting local ordinances. Brougher v. Bd. of Public Works, 205 Cal. 426 (1928).
ResolutionsMay establish rules regarding the procedures for adopting, amending or repealing resolutions.May establish procedures for adopting, amending or repealing resolutions. Brougher v. Bd. of Public Works, 205 Cal. 426 (1928)
Quorum and Voting RequirementsA majority of the city council constitutes a quorum for transaction of business. Cal. Gov’t Code § 36810.

 

All ordinances, resolutions, and orders for the payment of money require a recorded majority vote of the total membership of the city council. Cal. Gov’t Code § 36936.Specific legislation requires supermajority votes for certain actions

May establish own procedures and quorum requirements. However, certain legislation requiring supermajority votes is applicable to charter cities. For example, see California Code of Civil Procedure section 1245.240 requiring a vote of two-thirds of all the members of the governing body unless a greater vote is required by charter.
Rules Governing Procedure and DecorumRalph Brown Act is applicable. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 54951, 54953(a).

 

Conflict of interest laws are applicable. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 87300 et seq..

Ralph Brown Act is applicable. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 54951, 54953(a).

 

Conflict of interest laws are applicable. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 87300 et seq..

 

May provide provisions related to ethics, conflicts, campaign financing and incompatibility of office

Personnel MattersMay establish standards, requirements and procedures for hiring personnel consistent with Government Code requirements.

 

May have “civil service” system, which includes comprehensive procedures for recruitment, hiring, testing and promotion. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 45000 et seq.

 

Meyers-Milias-Brown Act applies. Cal. Gov’t Code § 3500.

 

Cannot require employees be residents of the city, but can require them to reside within a reasonable and specific distance of their place of employment. Cal. Const. art. XI, § 10(b).

May establish standards, requirements, and procedures, including compensation, terms and conditions of employment for personnel. See Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5(b).

 

Procedures set forth in Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (Cal. Gov’t Code § 3500) apply, but note, “[T]here is a clear distinction between the substance of a public employee labor issue and the procedure by which it is resolved. Thus there is no question that ‘salaries of local employees of a charter city constitute municipal affairs and are not subject to general laws.’” Voters for Responsible Retirement v. Board of Supervisors, 8 Cal.4th 765, 781 (1994).

 

Cannot require employees be residents of the city, but can require them to reside within a reasonable and specific distance of their place of employment. Cal. Const. art. XI, section 10(b).

Contracting ServicesAuthority to enter into contracts to carry out necessary functions, including those expressly granted and those implied by necessity. SeeCal. Gov’t Code § 37103; Carruth v. City of Madera, 233 Cal. App. 2d 688 (1965)Full authority to contract consistent with charter.

 

May transfer some of its functions to the county including tax collection, assessment collection and sale of property for non-payment of taxes and assessments. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 51330, 51334, 51335.

Public ContractsCompetitive bidding required for public works contracts over $5,000. Cal. Pub. Cont. Code § 20162. Such contracts must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. Pub. Cont. Code § 20162. If city elects subject itself to uniform construction accounting procedures, less formal procedures may be available for contracts less than $100,000. See Cal. Pub. Cont. Code §§ 22000, 22032.

 

Contracts for professional services such as private architectural, landscape architectural, engineering, environmental, land surveying, or construction management firms need not be competitively bid, but must be awarded on basis of demonstrated competence and professional qualifications necessary for the satisfactory performance of services. Cal. Gov’t Code § 4526.

Not required to comply with bidding statutes provided the city charter or a city ordinance exempts the city from such statutes, and the subject matter of the bid constitutes a municipal affair. Pub. Cont. Code § 1100.7; seeR & A Vending Services, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 172 Cal. App. 3d 1188 (1985); Howard Contracting, Inc. v. G.A. MacDonald Constr. Co., 71 Cal. App. 4th 38 (1998).
Payment of Prevailing WagesIn general, prevailing wages must be paid on public works projects over $1,000.Cal. Lab. Code § 1771. Higher thresholds apply ($15,000 or $25,000) if the public entity has adopted a special labor compliance program. See Cal. Labor Code § 1771.5(a)-(c).Historically, charter cities have not been bound by state law prevailing-wage requirements so long as the project is a municipal affair, and not one funded by state or federal grants. Vial v. City of San Diego, 122 Cal. App. 3d 346, 348 (1981). However, there is a growing trend on the part of the courts and the Legislature to expand the applicability of prevailing wages to charter cities under an analysis that argues that the payment of prevailing wages is a matter of statewide concern. The California Supreme Court currently has before them a case that will provide the opportunity to decide whether prevailing wage is a municipal affair or whether it has become a matter of statewide concern.
Finance and Taxing PowerMay impose the same kinds of taxes and assessment as charter cities. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 37100.5.

 

Imposition of taxes and assessments subject to Proposition 218. Cal. Const. art. XIIIC.

Examples of common forms used in assessment district financing include:

 

•Improvement Act of 1911. Cal. Sts. & High. Code § 22500 et seq..

 

•Municipal Improvement Act of 1913. See Cal. Sts. & High. Code §§ 10000 et seq..

 

•Improvement Bond Act of 1915. Cal. Sts. & High. Code §§ 8500 et seq..

 

•Landscaping and Lighting Act of 1972. Cal. Sts. & High. Code §§ 22500 et seq..

 

•Benefit Assessment Act of 1982. Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 54703 et seq..

 

May impose business license taxes for regulatory purposes, revenue purposes, or both. See Cal. Gov’t Code § 37101.

 

May not impose real property transfer tax. See Cal. Const. art. XIIIA, § 4; Cal. Gov’t Code § 53725; but see authority to impose documentary transfer taxes under certain circumstances. Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 11911(a), (c).

Have the power to tax.

 

Have broader assessment powers than a general law city, as well as taxation power as determined on a case-by case basis.

 

Imposition of taxes and assessments subject to Proposition 218, Cal. Const. art. XIIIC, § 2, and own charter limitations

 

May proceed under a general assessment law, or enact local assessment laws and then elect to proceed under the local law.SeeJ.W. Jones Companies v. City of San Diego, 157 Cal. App. 3d 745 (1984).

 

May impose business license taxes for any purpose unless limited by state or federal constitutions, or city charter. See Cal. Const. art. XI, § 5.

 

May impose real property transfer tax; does not violate either Cal. Const art. XIIIA or California Government Code section 53725. See Cohn v. City of Oakland, 223 Cal. App. 3d 261 (1990); Fielder v. City of Los Angeles, 14 Cal. App. 4th 137 (1993).

Streets & SidewalksState has preempted entire field of traffic control. Cal. Veh. Code § 21.State has preempted entire field of traffic control. Cal. Veh. Code § 21
Penalties & Cost RecoveryMay impose fines, penalties and forfeitures, with a fine not exceeding $1,000. Cal. Gov’t Code § 36901.May enact ordinances providing for various penalties so long as such penalties do not exceed any maximum limits set by the charter. County of Los Angeles v. City of Los Angeles, 219 Cal. App. 2d 838, 844 (1963).
Public Utilities/FranchisesMay establish, purchase, and operate public works to furnish its inhabitants with electric power. See Cal. Const. art. XI, § 9(a); Cal. Gov’t Code § 39732; Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 10002.

 

May grant franchises to persons or corporations seeking to furnish light, water, power, heat, transportation or communication services in the city to allow use of city streets for such purposes. The grant of franchises can be done through a bidding process, under the Broughton Act, Cal. Pub. Util. Code §§ 6001-6092, or without a bidding process under the Franchise Act of 1937, Cal. Pub. Util. Code §§ 6201-6302.

May establish, purchase, and operate public works to furnish its inhabitants with electric power. See Cal. Const. art. XI, § 9(a); Cal. Apartment Ass’n v. City of Stockton, 80 Cal. App. 4th 699 (2000).

 

May establish conditions and regulations on the granting of franchises to use city streets to persons or corporations seeking to furnish light, water, power, heat, transportation or communication services in the city.

 

Franchise Act of 1937 is not applicable if charter provides. Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 6205

ZoningZoning ordinances must be consistent with general plan. Cal. Gov’t Code § 65860.Zoning ordinances are not required to be consistent with general plan unless the city has adopted a consistency requirement by charter or ordinance. Cal. Gov’t. Code § 65803.

 

Note – no timeline was set of when the item might return for a council discussion.

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Damn. I expected more from the mayor and our Council members. Make a bold statement and move into the deep end and become a REAL city. Instead, they kick the can down the road for another Council to make the move. I hope the new Council, elected by district, has more testicular fortitude

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