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Groups in favor and against charter city mobilize

Former city leaders on both sides of the issue
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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A group of former local leaders has joined together to advocate that voters keep Auburn from becoming a charter city in June. Supporters of Preserve Auburn - No on Measure A include former Auburn City mayors Hank Gonzales, Bud Pisarek and George Beland and Wally Reemelin, former president of the now dissolved League of Placer County Taxpayers. The group is being funded by the California Alliance for Jobs, which represents 2,000 heavy construction companies and 80,000 union construction workers in California. They say the costs associated with becoming a charter city, lack of an adequate review process it has received and major policy implications it could create are the reason they are voting ‘no.’ Other community members say many of the arguments against the charter are not based on facts and the charter will have many benefits, including giving the city more autonomy from the state and ensuring that volunteers can continue to do work for the city for free into the future. Opponents say charter raises concern Reemelin said he is not usually opposed to charters, but doesn’t agree with the one drafted for Auburn. “I don’t think the charter is a good idea for the City of Auburn. The charter doesn’t give the residents of Auburn any power, it just gives the politicians power,” Reemelin said. Beland said witnessing negative outcomes in other California charter cities, like Bell and Vallejo, is one reason he is opposed to Auburn becoming a charter city. He said the current structure has worked well for the city since it was instituted and there is no reason to change it. “We don’t know what the next city council might do in future times. I grew up in Vallejo and Vallejo is a charter city and they went bankrupt,” Beland said. “There are some other cities that have had problems, too.” Beland also said because the city will no longer be required to pay prevailing wage on some projects that could lead to a lack of under qualified workers completing city projects. Under the terms of the charter, 15 percent of voters can make amendments to the charter, which opponents of Measure A say will allow special interest groups to cement their policy into Auburn. Supporters say charter will give Auburn more autonomy Cheryl Maki, who owns Maki Heating and Air, was also a former mayor. She said her company would like to be able to do work for the city for cheaper. She said while the company and workers enjoy making prevailing wage the jobs could actually be done for much cheaper and her workers would still get paid their regular wages. Maki said opponents of Measure A have created a false hysteria over the abuse of some charter cities because the council has written provisions in the charter that will prevent those situations. Locally, Roseville and Grass Valley are also charter cities, according to Auburn City Attorney Michael Colantuono. “Public works jobs can be done a lot cheaper if they don’t have to pay prevailing wage,” Maki said. “Basically it’s about having a little more control of our own choices and own city and not having to be beholden to the state.” In the past, Maki said she has been prevented from servicing a heating and air-conditioning unit for free that her company donated to the city because of issues over prevailing wage and volunteers. Maki said she isn’t worried the charter would cause abuse because city leaders are easier to access and hold accountable. “It’s unfortunate that people would trust a government they can’t really see or hear most of the time compared to the government they have right here within a few miles of their home,” Maki said. Carolyn Metzker, local Realtor, said she is for the proposed charter and was recently polled by what seemed to be a survey commissioned by the anti-charter group. Metzker said the surveyor asked her to rate her opinion of each city council member and began to ask questions that were full of double negatives. She said at that point she declined to answer the rest of the questions. She said she feels residents have had enough time to learn about the charter and make a decision for themselves. Currently, volunteers are able to complete work for cities for free until 2017. The legislation that allowed for that expires at that point, which is why proponents of the charter, like Metzker, say it needs to be permanently addressed in a charter. “Change is scary to anybody and the group that we have, the city manager, and the management in our city, they are pretty smart and I think they are doing a good job of being transparent and, if we take the time, helping us learn about the charter,” Metzker said. “Sometimes change is necessary.” Bob Snyder, Auburn City planning commissioner, said he has worked on the written argument for the charter and along with supporters will be attending various service groups to share about it. Todd Stenhouse, spokesperson for Preserve Auburn - No on Measure A, said although it may have some local support, the charter could foster many negative consequences. “You are proposing to open Pandora’s box and if you are going to open Pandora’s Box, you’d like to know what is in Pandora’s box,” Stenhouse said. “Has this charter taken the necessary steps to protect the public?” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News. _______________________________________________________ For more on a lawsuit filed by the Auburn City Clerk against the authors of the ballot argument against Measure A see Monday’s Journal.