How can any Centennial elected official support the Home Rule Charter, up for a vote on June 10? The charter fails in several areas. Here are three; the first should give all elected Centennial officials pause and the second should make you angry. 1. Remove Each Other? Section 2.13 of the Charter allows for the city council and mayor to remove, with “good cause”, any member of the council or the mayor. What is wrong with that? Well, you voted them in, don’t you think you should reserve the power and right to vote them out? Why should that right be taken away from you? Imagine a scenario where your representative is tough, challenging the status quo and probing for answers and facts. You voted him into office with a strong majority and expect him to challenge when appropriate. Now imagine another who is a strong leader, someone who can pull or bully others to their point of view. This person needs only to gather five more votes (total of six needed) and your elected official could be removed from office and thereby trump the voice of the people – ignoring your vote that originally placed him or her in office.
2. Eliminate Elected Positions? Sections 8.5 & 8.7 of the charter remove the two elected positions that you, the citizens, voted to maintain just a few years ago. The majority of the charter commissioners voted that their logic to remove the elected City Clerk and City Treasurer is superior to your vote. They are sending the unintended message that you can’t make a good decision, and will act to make it for you. Do you feel compelled to trust this charter when your vote and will is ignored?
3. Sky's the Limit? The charter codifies the idea that Centennial is not to be a virtual city – the vision initially projected when the city incorporated seven years ago. How does the charter do this? The very essence of Home Rule grants a municipality the power to self-govern; to become whatever the city wants to become by passing legislation. No longer constrained by state statues, the city can increase its tax base, staff, overhead, and spending. All tax increases will go to the voters for approval, but the city can commit us to spending without your vote (e.g. public works, increased staffing, etc.).
Still uncertain? Here are another five other points to justify voting no . 4. Trust. Where is your level of trust given these three points above? Do you remember when the city incorporated, and promises were made to have low sales tax (1.5%), no automobile tax, and no city hall (“virtual” only)? All have evolved away from those initial promises. It is a matter of trust.
5. Amendments. Supporters say “let’s just pass this now and we’ll fix it later…we’ll add amendments”. In other words, the same people who don’t trust you and your vote are asking you to trust them – that they know how to handle this and that we need only to have faith that all will be well. Trust them that the will of the people will be heard – that the appropriate amendments will be added to the Charter to fix its current errors. How do you feel about that – about trusting them to do the right thing and honor your voice? (As you ponder this – consider the first four again.) Bottom line: I can’t trust that an amendment process would happen.
6. Maturity and Vision. Because the city’s 2007 vision survey only touched a tiny representation of the city (only 400 of 103,000 residents; or approx. 0.4%), we only know the opinion of a small sampling of residents. But our city is a blend of the old and the new with visions and ideas different from one part of town to another. It is my view that we have not existed long enough to filter and vet out what “we” want to be. As a whole, we need more time to mature– more time to coalesce a vision that is representative of the WHOLE city and find that consensus vision. There’s no rush here...we have all the time we need to do this right.
7. Motive. I believe the real motive for Home Rule is NOT about self-determination. Yes, the charter will provide self-determination, but the driving motive of our mayor and his supporters in pushing Home Rule is about money. Why the big rush to pass the Charter now? It’s all about taxes and revenue. Why more money? To pay for more city buildings, more city staff, and more city benefits. Clearly, more money means more government. Don’t’ get me wrong – government has a place in our lives, an important role. But we do not need more government trucks or buildings. We don’t need to grow the city staff, again. We need our city officials to keep the city fiscally healthy by operating as a virtual city – the city that leaders promised you seven years ago.
8. Next Steps. What happens if the Charter vote fails? Several next steps will occur. First, the Charter Commission will go back to work on the Charter – hopefully to correct the gaps and errors of the current version. Also, all will hear your clear voice in the choir of the whole express the sentiment and will of the people – “we are not to be ignored nor our votes trumped”. Most importantly, the city doesn’t get more money. The city council and mayor will be forced and challenged to find ways to cut spending to meet the budget, instead of reaching to grab more revenue to grow government. I think that is a good thing.
I’ve outlined eight points that justify a “NO” vote on your mail-in ballot. This Memorial Day, as you receive your ballots, remember those who stood up for you and me – fighting to ensure that our voices and that our vote would mean something. Send a message and join me - vote “NO” and do not adopt this charter.