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Another View: Put the Auburn charter on the ballot

Another View
By: Kevin Hanley, Auburn city councilman
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Successful organizations and individuals use every tool available to them to achieve their mission. The U.S. Armed Services – led by highly trained men and women, cutting-edge weapon systems and a code of honor — are the most capable in the world. The brilliant software engineers at Apple create amazing new gadgets that have put a world of information at our fingertips and revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. Giant’s pitcher Tim Lincecum uses a wide array of tools — from a 95-mile-per-hour fastball to a mean changeup — to whiff the most formidable sluggers. The stirring oratory of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial ensured that the dream of ensuring civil rights and justice for all Americans would never die. The mission of the City of Auburn is to provide high quality municipal services at the lowest possible cost, strengthen the local economy, support a high quality of life that includes the arts and recreational opportunities and to preserve our small-town character. Is the City of Auburn using every tool in its toolbox to achieve its mission? No. In the mid-1970s, California voters enacted the home-rule provision of the California Constitution, which allows a general-law city like Auburn to, with a majority vote of the people, approve a charter — the city’s constitution — and thereby gain much more local control over its municipal affairs. So far, 120 cities in California, including Roseville and Grass Valley, have become charter cities as more local voters realize that the dysfunctional California Legislature will continue its efforts to erode local control. The California Legislature will continue to impose ill-conceived mandates on Auburn that adversely impact public safety, increase sewer rates and housing costs, threaten volunteer-led community projects and micromanage how we carry out everything from animal control to weed abatement. Amazingly, on six different occasions, the legislature killed bills that would have permanently exempted the city from paying volunteers an artificially inflated prevailing wage. Recent columns by Dan Walters — “Legislature blithely interferes with local decision-making” and “California cities feel clobbered by capitol” — tell the story. After more than a year and a half of study and five public hearings, the Auburn City Council will consider on Aug. 8 whether or not to put the “Home Rule for Auburn Charter of 2012” on the June 2012 ballot. The proposed charter and hundreds of pages of background materials can be reviewed by residents at www.auburn.ca.gov. If enacted by the people, the Auburn charter will maximize local control over our municipal affairs. It will help us keep sewer rates for homeowners and business owners as low as possible. It will guarantee the benefit of volunteerism in Auburn by permanently exempting Auburn from a counterproductive state law and potential court orders that require volunteers on public projects to either refrain from participation or to be paid a state-imposed prevailing wage. It will give the city council the option to craft a “Think Local First” ordinance that could assist local firms to win city contracts and help support local jobs. It will require a performance-based budget to ensure more transparency and accountability on how Auburn resident tax dollars are spent and the level of services that are provided by the city to residents and business owners. If you’re an Auburn resident or own a business in town and you favor more local control, e-mail city council members via Amy Lind, the assistant city clerk, at alind@auburn.ca.gov. Put the “Home Rule for Auburn Charter of 2012” on the ballot and let the debate begin. Kevin Hanley serves on the Auburn City Council.