Ventura — a charter city that is more accessible, transparent and accountable to the citizens it serves

In California, there are two kinds of cities:  charter and general law. 

by the City of Ventura

The City of Ventura has a long history of civic engagement.  Our City Council listens carefully as citizens voice their concerns and suggestions at public meetings, by email or in person.  On example is the City Council decision to form a Charter Review Committee after hearing from residents that our City Charter needed updates.

In 2014, an 11-member citizens committee immediately began its work researching areas of the City Charter that may require amending, clarification or modification, including considerations for a directly elected Mayor, term limits, district elections and removing the Ventura Unified School District’s process to elect its Board of Education from our City Charter.  In April 2016 the City Council voted to place two Charter Amendments, recommended by the CRC, on the ballot and Ventura residents voted to approve the Measures during the Election this month.

Measure N changes the selection of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor from odd numbered years to even numbered years to coincide with the City Council election; replaces Section 506 of the City Charter electing Councilmembers at-large with a process to be established by ordinance in the City’s Municipal Code; and removes the Board of Education election from the City Charter.

Measure Q establishes term limits that a City Councilmember may not serve more than three, four-year terms without a break in service of at least four years. And, in the event the City Council are elected by districts, the term-limits provision will prevent a City Councilmember who serves three terms on the City Council from one district from moving to another district and seeking to run again without a four-year break in service.  Term limits start with the 2018 election.

How do these charter amendments affect for our current and newly-elected officials? Mayor Nasarenko and Deputy Mayor Andrews will complete their mayoral roles in 2017 and serve as Councilmembers until 2018.  Councilmembers Monahan and Tracy will serve their terms until 2018.     Re-elected Councilmembers Heitmann and Weir, and newly-elected Councilmember LaVere, will serve until 2020. In December 2017, a Mayor and Deputy Mayor will be selected to serve a 1 year term to allow the Mayor/Deputy Major selection to start with the 2018 election.  The Charter amendments become effective once they are published by the Secretary of State in the State Statutes.  It is anticipated this will occur in January 2017.

In California, there are two kinds of cities:  charter and general law.  Ventura is a charter city, and of California’s 478 cities, 121 are charter cities.  The benefit of being a charter city is to have local authority over “municipal affairs”, rather than allowing a state law to govern the same topic.  Commonly referred to as the “home-rule”, the League of California Cities explains that the charter city provision of the State Constitution allows charter cities to conduct their own business and control their own affairs.

The City of Ventura’s first charter was approved by the voters in 1931 and by the State Legislature in 193.  And because a city charter can only be changed by a vote of the people, it gives citizens control over local issues such as municipal election matters, land use and zoning decisions (with some exceptions) and how a city spends its tax dollars.

With leadership from our City Council and engagement of residents working together, we have “government by the people” and success in shaping our community with all the great attributes that Ventura has to offer.

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