LWVP Advises City Council on Public Input to City Charter Changes
In a letter to Mayor McBain & the Piedmont City Council dated February 9, 2018, the League of Women Voters of Piedmont expressed concern over the Council's proposal to place City Charter changes on the June election ballot. The timing of such ballot measures would preclude a democratic, two-way discussion with members of the community regarding the language of the City Charter amendments. In it's letter, the League stated that it "has a position that ‘believes that democratic government depends upon informed and active participation at all levels of government. The League further believes that governmental bodies must protect the citizen’s right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings and making public records accessible.’” The League urged "a public meeting for a two-way discussion on these proposed charter changes so that the public has sufficient opportunity to share its input with the Council and for the Council to consider any revisions....”
democratic government depends upon informed and active participation at all levels of government
Subsequent to this letter, the League and League members were present and gave public comment about the issue at the City Council Meeting on March 5, 2018. League member Lianne Campodonico spoke on her own behalf requesting that the Council allow for a public conversation regarding proposed City Charter changes that has more substance than a three minute address at a Council Meeting. She went on to say that “democracy is frustrating, it’s messy and sometimes it takes a really long time. And we’re lucky here in Piedmont to have people who want to engage in the public good and in public conversation.”
Katy Foulkes, president of the League of Women Voters of Piedmont spoke on behalf of the League. “The League thinks it’s very important that we have an informed and involved electorate in anything that the Council is doing and I know that you, as a council believe in that, too. ...Once it’s on the ballot the words can’t be changed. And that’s where the conversation needs to start with our public so that whatever is crafted and put on the ballot is put on in the best possible way.”
[The City Council meeting can be viewed here. The comments of Lianne Campodonico & Katy Foulkes can be seen at 30:00-35:05 in the video.]
“democracy is frustrating, it’s messy and sometimes it takes a really long time. And we’re lucky here in Piedmont to have people who want to engage in the public good and in public conversation.”
The Council ultimately decided to postpone the City Charter amendments so that proper discourse with the citizens of Piedmont could take place. Vice Mayor, Teddy King, summarized the standpoint of the Council by commenting that "we are coming to these [City Charter revisions] from an earnest place of good governance." And, "although we are a small town and a limited body ... let’s just also recognize what’s really at stake. We’re doing our best to try to make the charter and our government work better."
"We’re doing our best to try to make the charter and our government work better."
The League followed up with a second letter to Mayor McBain & City Council dated March 10, 2018 thanking the City Council for choosing to defer placing City Charter amendments on a ballot until adequate input is received from the public. “Our City Charter is the most important guiding document of the City, and can only be changed by the vote of our citizens. It is therefore especially important to have their thoughtful and considered opinions included in the formation of proposed changes.” And in this vein, the “League stands ready to help where possible....”