Time to whip out that dusty, old charter again

February 4, 2010

Ventura's charter is *almost* this old.

In Ventura, “Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers” sounds less like the intro to the Emancipation Proclamation than it does an update on the city’s charter.

For those who missed this week’s VC Reporter (please read it, and please leave comments, yes, there is another newspaper here), we reported on a new group who’d like to see the city’s charter changed.

It hasn’t quite been four score and seven years, but it’s been nearly 25 … that’s a quarter century of following rules and regs that may be long outdated. What’s worse is that a whole bunch of important stuff has happened since 1986, which we can’t ignore by leaving them out of the charter.

For instance, the charter change group pointed out that compensatory numbers for elected officials haven’t change with inflation; the charter, which stipulates a monthly allowance of $600, reflects 1980s dollars.

They also pointed out the benefits of electing a mayor. The city is growing in population; isn’t it time we had a full-time leader to be there for our needs?

Aren’t we what the charter really is all about? And our needs? Nineteen Eighty-Six was years before the Internet, so, of course, there’s no mention in the latest charter about any city info on the Web … no public document info, no meeting info, nothing in the charter which states the city must provide a good Web window for us to access.

And while the charter itself doesn’t contain a list or description of penal codes and laws, things like Megan’s Law, which is contained in the city’s lexicon as part of state law, doesn’t correspond with the charter, which it should.

In fact, when reading the charter, it’s quite vague in its wording. It makes one wonder: do we even need a charter? Every other city (except Hueneme) operates on general law, and they do just fine.

I guess the better question would be: Why have a charter when it doesn’t get updated regularly? You don’t just keep the same oil in your car for 100,000 miles. Well, you could, but your car won’t run properly.

That’s the point. Updating the city charter — and keeping up that maintenance — keeps the wheels of municipal government turning more efficiently.

Maybe a rule requiring an update to our charter every, say, 5 years or so, should be in the charter.

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