City charter ready for SH voters

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Charter Review Committee last week approved revisions to the city’s charter and recommended that the City Council send it to voters in November.

The committee met for the third time on June 30 to review the proposed revisions, which were identified at the previous meetings.

The revisions don’t substantially alter the way the city conducts its business, said City Manager Craig Martin. “The only real change will be in regards to the voting requirements.”

If approved by voters, the charter revisions will create a single method of decision-making by the council.

Right now, most decisions are made by a quorum of the council. The council has a quorum when a majority of its seven members are present.

In some cases, such as the removal of the city manager or election of the mayor, the decision must be made by a majority of the council membership.

The revisions will allow a quorum to make those decisions as well, Martin said.

City Attorney Robert Snyder is still working on the language to ensure this is implemented, Martin said, but the committee gave its approval to the concept.

The revisions cover two more issues.

First, the revisions will remove pointless amendments. They serve no function in the document.

Among them are amendments for general obligation bond sales. In the past, when voters would approve general obligation bond sales, the city added an amendment to the charter document. They serve no purpose being in the charter. The oldest bond amendment was included in 1944. The last was added in 1978. The charter includes 16 of these bond amendments.

The charter also includes an amendment from 1993 that prohibited minority status for homosexuals and prohibits spending public funds to promote homosexuality. Citizens gathered signatures and placed the amendment before city voters, who approved it 77.3 percent to 22.7 percent

Around that time, the Oregon Citizens Alliance, which failed to pass a similar law statewide, turned its attention to the local level, and numerous cities and counties passed similar laws. Similar laws were approved by voters in Linn County, Albany and Lebanon.

Since then, the prohibition has been ruled unconstitutional, said City Attorney Robert Snyder. He told the charter review committee that the language in the amendment is useless as an argument in court, rendering moot the language in the city’s charter.

Second, the revisions will make references to mayors, councilors and the city manager gender neutral. Right now, the charter refers to each of these positions with male pronouns.

The council will likely look at the charter revisions in August, Martin said. If the council approves, the revisions will go to voters in the November general election.

The election will not cost the city anything, Martin said. The city can ask voters to consider charter revisions in primary or general elections without incurring costs for elections.