Escondido charter put to voters again

ESCONDIDO — After months of debate and disagreements, Escondido City Council voted to put a city charter proposal on November’s ballot with hardly any comment at Wednesday night’s meeting.

By converting to a charter city from a general law city, Escondido’s city government would have more jurisdiction over local affairs. Instead of following state mandates, city council would have the power to establish laws to govern municipal affairs including government organization, local election procedures, how vacancies of city positions are filled, and bidding rules for city contracts.

Voters rejected a city charter proposal in 2012, when the charter established city voting districts and an exemption from prevailing wage.

Since then, Escondido has established voting districts in the city as a result of a court order.

The current charter does not mention prevailing wage either due to ongoing court battles over the state withholding grants from cities that have exempted themselves from prevailing wage. City Council would have the option of including a prevailing wage exemption in future years if voters adopt the city charter.

City Council initiated the effort to put a new charter city measure in late 2013. Since then, the charter city proposal has come before city council four times to establish the charter’s language and receive public comments. The last public hearing was held on May 21.

During these earlier meetings, City Council and public commenters deliberated over how the charter would impact the amount of power given to City Council and future consideration of a prevailing wage exemption.

Most of citizens who spoke during city meetings expressed opposition to the renewed charter measure, saying that voters already defeated the proposal.

The four members of the city council majority advocated for the city charter, saying that it would take power away from Sacramento leaders and enable local officials to make decisions that best serve Escondido.

Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz expressed concerns that the city charter would give too much power to council.

But on Wednesday night, no public speakers addressed the charter measure.

Councilmember Ed Gallo was the only official to comment on the vote, voicing his support for letting the voters decide.

City Council approved the charter’s placement on the ballot 4 to 1, with Diaz in opposition.

Placing the charter on this November’s ballot will cost the city between $20,000 and $30,000. The city will also pay an additional $4,000 to publish and send out a community mailer to Escondido citizens about the city charter.

The city was sued in 2013 for the mailers it sent out that partly addressed the 2012 city charter proposal.

The lawsuit alleged that the materials were biased in favor of the charter measure. The city settled the suit for $36,500 and established rules for future mailers.

City Clerk Diane Halverson said that it has not been decided who will author the community mailers for the upcoming charter city proposal.

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