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Jan 08

Modesto Launches Charter Review Committee

Posted on January 8, 2020 at 3:21 PM by Thomas Reeves

The following is a guest post by Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold

On behalf of the Modesto City Council and the citizens, residents, voters, and taxpayers of the City of Modesto, I am pleased to announce the formation of the City’s Charter Review Committee. 

A Brief History
Over 50 years ago, the citizens of Modesto adopted a new city charter that provided for the Council-Manager form of government. The final adoption and approval of that charter was preceded by the election of a Board of Freeholders which, in 1949, drafted a proposed charter that was subsequently submitted to the voters. 

Because of some technical difficulties, it was invalidated by the courts prior to its approval. Thereafter, the City Council appointed a citizens committee to complete the job of drafting a city charter, which was eventually approved by the voters and later ratified by the California State Legislature.

In 1961, after the City had approximately 10 years of experience in operating under the new charter, the City Council felt that it was time to review the charter, evaluate its effectiveness, and make recommendations for amendments where appropriate. The Council appointed a Citizens Review Committee to make such an evaluation. That committee made a complete and thorough review of the charter, line by line, and proposed a number of revisions. The State Legislature subsequently ratified these proposals (Charter amendments are no longer required to be ratified by the State Legislature). 

Similar review occurred in 1971, 1980, 1989, and 1999. 

Now, many decades after its initial adoption, the City Council has appointed this new committee to take a fresh look at the City Charter and determine whether or not additional revisions should be made.

What’s Next
A city charter, like the state and federal constitutions, is a statement of basic principles, outlining powers, relationships and responsibilities. It should be reasonably short, a concise and readable instrument establishing an outline of the organizational framework of our city government. It should not be encumbered with the kind of policy detail that is more properly set forth in the City Code.

The function of this committee is to review Modesto’s current Charter, and ensure it provides the best organization, powers, and functions and essential procedures for the best possible City government.

Each member of the City Council believes this committee is vital to the future of Modesto.  We expect this committee to do more than a caretaker's job in reviewing our local constitution, and we fully anticipate committee members will be thorough in their ideas to improve our local government and governance.

One of the major themes I see for this work is the need for more accountability in City Hall. Committee members will spend time considering ways we can improve accountability to our citizens, residents, voters, and taxpayers.  Despite the difficulty of the task, this City Council continues to believe that we must better meet the expectations of our citizens.

This committee will have a wide charge to review the entire City Charter and make recommendations as members see appropriate for our City. 

The committee will also have access to expertise and specialties inside and outside the City of Modesto, and we will provide you all the necessary resources to do a thorough review of the Charter.

Supporting this committee will be our Charter Officers, who are integral to running our great City.  City Clerk Stephanie Lopez will coordinate the necessary agenda, minutes, and documentation work; City Attorney Adam Lindgren will provide legal resources to the effort; and City Manager Joe Lopez will provide support staff. 

Thanks for your consideration,

If you are interested in serving on this valuable committee, please submit an application.  The deadline to apply is noon on January 22, 2020.