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Proposed charter changes stir voters

Six amendments, all up for consideration on general election ballot, are drawing praise, fire.

March 31, 2007|By Chris Wiebe

CITY HALL — Six amendments to the Burbank City Charter — which are up for voter consideration on the general election ballot — are drawing both resistance and support from the community.

The proposed changes came after seven months of work from a 15-member Charter Review Committee, which the council tapped in November 2005 to review the 90-year-old document and submit recommendations for possible modifications.

The charter provides a blueprint for local government and is often referred to as the city's constitution.

Though presented to the council in one piece, council members opted to split the items up for individual consideration by the voters.

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Measure B — Appointment of City Clerk

The existing charter provides for a voter election every four years to designate a city clerk, whose duties include keeping city and council records and conducting local elections. The charter committee has recommended that hiring a clerk be delegated to the city manager. Passage of Measure B would make the city clerk an appointed, rather than elected, position.

Supporters of the measure argue that the existing system can put the clerk in the capacity of running his or her own election, which poses an awkward conflict, former committee chairwoman Carolyn Jackson said.

"It requires the clerk to go through an elective process, raise money … and those are just not things that are compatible with the nature of the job itself."

Since the position is an elected office, city officials cannot impose any eligibility requirements beyond the candidate being a Burbank resident and a registered voter more than 18 years old. That poses a dilemma, given the specialized nature of the position and the extensive professional training involved, she said.

"I think there are plenty of intelligent, capable people in Burbank, but they may not be qualified to do these sorts of things," Jackson said.

But measure opponents maintain that giving the city manager the responsibility of selecting a city clerk would usurp voters' rights to choose a key position in the city's government.

"The point is it takes away the voting power from the people," Burbank resident Michelle Feather said.

To say that a good candidate cannot be found in the pool of registered voters in Burbank underestimates the many qualified people in the community, she added.

Measure C — Appointment of City Treasurer

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