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Citywide Vote for Mayor Proposed in Pasadena

February 18, 1988|ASHLEY DUNN | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — After nearly three years of study, a city committee has presented the Board of Directors with a plan to reorganize city government that includes the election of a mayor through a citywide vote.

The Charter Study Committee's plan also includes adding one member to the seven-member Board of Directors, increasing the salaries of board members from $50 a meeting to a maximum of $1,200 a month, and setting the mayor's salary at a maximum of $2,400 a month.

The board agreed Tuesday to consider the plan for three weeks to allow residents to comment on the proposed changes. The board will vote on the plan March 7 so that it could be placed on the June 7 ballot for a citywide vote.

The reorganization plan is the culmination of nearly three years' work that was sparked by a bitter debate in 1985 over a proposed assessment district to levy yearly fees to pay for street improvements.

The movement was led by a group called Citizens for Representative Government, which claimed that the current system of electing directors from districts shuts "ordinary citizens" out of city government.

The system has led the city into "financial chaos," said Ozro Anderson, one of the leaders of the group.

Concerns Persisted

The proposal for the assessment district was withdrawn because of widespread opposition.

But the concerns raised by the citizens group persisted, and a committee was eventually formed by the board to consider the reorganization of city government.

That committee's work led to an advisory ballot measure in last November's election in which 57.6% of the voters supported selecting a mayor in a citywide vote. However, 71.2% also supported continuing the current system of letting a strong city manager handle the day-to-day administration of the city.

The Charter Study Committee continued its work after the election to determine how to reorganize city government to reflect the voters' opinions.

The committee held a public hearing and received more than 1,400 responses to a survey mailed in the city's newsletter, "In Focus."

Committee Chairwoman Marguerite Ernstene said the results of the survey clearly showed that residents want the mayor to have only slightly more power than at present.

Under the current system, the mayor's post is rotated among board members. The mayor represents the city at special functions, presides over board meetings and delivers the annual State of the City address. But the mayor has no more power than any other board member.

Under the new plan, Ernstene said the mayor would have essentially the same powers. The mayoral election would be held every four years at the same time as the presidential elections.

Director Kathryn Nack said her main concern is that under the new plan the mayor could be elected with less than 50% of the vote, since there is no provision for a runoff.

Ernstene said the committee proposed a single election because a runoff would have to take place in December or January, which would mean a smaller turnout and a conflict with the holidays.

Director Rick Cole also raised concerns about higher salaries for directors. Directors have been receiving $50 for each meeting since 1968.

Ernstene said the committee's recommendation to increase the salary to a maximum of $1,200 a month would allow more low-income residents to run for the board. But she urged maintaining that ceiling to keep from attracting full-time, professional politicians. The board would be allowed to set the salaries.

The plan would enlarge the board from seven to nine members, including another director and the elected mayor, to prevent tie votes.

Another director would require redistricting the city, which could help increase minority representation on the board, Ernstene said.

The committee has also proposed changing the name of the Board of Directors to the City Council.

If the plan is approved by voters in June, the first mayoral election could take place in November. The election of the eighth board member would take place in March or April of 1989, according to the plan.

CHARTER PROPOSALS The Charter Study Committee has recommended that the Pasadena Board of Directors submit to the voters a plan that would:

Elect the mayor citywide. The mayor's post now is rotated among seven directors elected by district.

Increase the mayor's salary to a maximum of $2,400 a month and directors' salaries to a maximum of $1,200 a month. They are now paid $50 per meeting. Add an eighth director, in addition to the citywide mayor, to avoid tie votes. Change the name of the Board of Directors to the City Council.

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