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Chartering a new course for city

April 09, 2005

Carolyn Berlin

In the Saturday, March 26-27 issue of the Leader, you asked for

recommended changes to the Burbank City Charter.

Below are three suggestions and comments: 1. The elected city

clerk should be given more latitude and responsibility in carrying

out election responsibilities. As our elections official, the elected

city clerk should be able to interpret the municipal code regarding

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elections. If there is an ordinance that calls for an election under

certain circumstances, our city clerk should be able to call for an

election by the people. This could eliminate negotiated deals that

bypass the right to vote.

Several months ago, when the issue of airport expansion arose with

the development agreement authorizing the purchase of additional

acreage by the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, I was

surprised to learn that only the City Council can call for an

election. The city clerk should be able to make this determination as

well.

2. Related to this issue, over the years there have been times

when it appears that the interests of the city clerk in protecting

the people's rights to the books and records of the city or answers

to questions relating to those books and records, particularly

public-records requests, are different than the political views of

the City Council. Further, it seems it would be more appropriate for

the city clerk to be the custodian of all records of the city,

including those relating to the Community Development Department

contracts and Planning Board's books and records. The city clerk must

get advice from the city attorney, who reports directly to the City

Council. There are instances where the city attorney may advise the

city clerk based on his instructions from his bosses, which could be

in conflict with the duties and responsibilities of the city clerk.

Therefore, I propose that the city clerk have his or her own

independent outside legal counsel, who provides advice specifically

regarding issues relating to the duties of the city clerk. The city

clerk should be able to choose that counsel, who would be accountable

only to the city clerk. When you go the city's website, the city

clerk's office is listed under "Departments," yet it is an elected

position and accountable to the voters, not the City Council or city

manager. More independence and recognition are needed for this

important public office.

3. Based on Burbank's size, population, revenue and density, we

should have a qualified elected city attorney who is accountable to

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