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Charter makes it way to election ballot

Auburn activist challenges document that would give city more control
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn residents now have a final draft of the city’s potential charter on the June ballot after a short discussion Monday that failed to attract public comment. Residents may also see some new artwork in Downtown Auburn in the future. Councilman Mike Holmes pulled the final version of the draft charter off City Council’s consent calendar Monday night so the council could discuss it as a separate item. “I wanted to pull this off since I was not here for the full discussion last time,” Holmes said. “I just want to reconfirm that I am in favor of the changes that were made.” Councilman Kevin Hanley said he appreciated the work that had gone into creating the charter. “I really appreciate all the input from the public in drafting the charter — various recommendations from council members,” Hanley said. “I think we made this a true community effort. We took our time, so I support putting this on the ballot.” Mayor Bill Kirby said he thought everyone worked through the charter very carefully and that Auburn could not become like the cities of Vernon or Bell. He also said he thought the charter would give the city more home rule, which is better than what the state Legislature could offer. Although no members of the audience spoke during the public comment section of the item, Auburn resident Victoria Connolly spoke to the Journal after the meeting. Connolly is also a member of the citizen group APACE, or Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community, which currently has pending litigation to try to stop a WalMart from being built along Grass Valley Highway. Connolly submitted to Hanley a public records request of all documents, videotaped and recorded information from Jan. 1, 2008 to Sept. 12, 2011 that included “correspondence or records between you and outside (non-governmental) entities having to do with the building and contracting industry as related to doing public business relative to the City of Auburn vis a vis establishment of the city charter.” On Monday Connolly said she believed special interests of Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. may have inspired Hanley to present the charter. She also said she didn’t think the negative aspects of a city charter presented at a June 2010 council meeting had been adequately discussed in recent charter hearings. These included the fact that changes in state law are automatically inducted into city law in general law cities, but in a charter city they would have to be more closely monitored because they would no longer be automatic. She also said the disadvantage of the city being able to impose additional fees on residents was not discussed. “I think those cons were not addressed,” Connolly said. “I thought that using the public hearing forums to address concerns was not an in-depth kind of analysis, and Mr. Hanley, when he originally proposed this, had called for an in depth analysis.” Hanley said the pros and cons of the charter were discussed at length at City Council meetings, through Journal letters to the editor and during the chamber forums held on Tuesday mornings. Hanley said the council decided it would be a good idea for the city to pay more attention to the laws the state was enacting and he included a provision that the charter could not give the council the power to grant more fees or higher taxes. Hanley said Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. had nothing to do with drafting the charter. “It’s completely untrue,” Hanley said. “I have been working on drafting a charter, independently looking at different charters, for like a year-and-a-half. And a group that Victoria is talking about came to us … in the last hearing on the topic and they specifically requested that we put a ban on project labor agreements in the charter and we said, ‘No.’ And the charter, the way I drafted the first draft, was to take some of the most recent charters like Vista, Palmdale, El Centro and then try to make it Auburn specific. Some of it is the same, but a lot of it is different.” Connolly said once she hears back with either more information or a denial of her request, which she expects to take 10 days, she will go forward from there. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com