The idea of changing Buellton to a “home-rule” city is on hold again after City Council members decided Thursday to set up a workshop for more discussion about a draft plan.
Mayor Judith Dale and other council members said they need more time to study the proposal and particularly to be educated about issues surrounding prevailing-wage laws.
In public comment Thursday, representatives from three trade union groups told the council about the benefits of prevailing wages, such as getting work done by better-trained laborers and tradesmen.
Buellton and most other California municipalities are “general law” cities under the state Constitution. Unlike a general law city, a charter city can adopt laws that are different from general state laws to meet its specific needs, and in many cases charter cities are not required to pay the official “prevailing wage” to contractors for public works projects.
Governing a city by its own charter is often called “home rule.”
Charter cities in Santa Barbara County include Solvang, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, and there are 121 in the state, according to the League of California Cities.
The change to a charter city would require voter approval of a measure that could appear on the November 2014 ballot. The date, time, and location of the council’s next workshop have yet to be determined.
In August, an eight-member citizens advisory committee, formed earlier in the year, unveiled the proposal to the council for consideration and approval of the draft document.
Committee members are Ron Anderson, Patty Armor, Doug Bristol, Dick Evert, Lisa Figueroa, Fred Luna, Brad Michel and Tom Widroe.
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The goal of the charter is to give city residents more local control, according to the committee. However, council members agreed Aug. 23 to give themselves more time to review the proposal before deciding whether to move the process forward.
If the council approves the wording of the charter, it is expected to appear on the ballot Nov. 4, 2014. Already set to appear on that ballot are the council seats now held by Dale, Ed Andrisek and John Connolly.
Adoption of a charter must be approved by a simple majority of voters, who also must approve before any changes are made in the future.
Two public hearings, as required by state law, and formal approval of the resolution for the ballot are tentatively scheduled for February and April of 2014, according to City Clerk Linda Reid, and the City Council could decide in May to put the question on the 2014 ballot.
Councilwoman Holly Sierra said the draft charter needs “more time and thought,” and she asked for a complete description of a general law city versus a charter city.
The charter proposal contains “general wording,” said Councilman Leo Elovitz, who said he’d like to get input from representatives of neighboring charter cities.
City Manager John Kunkel said the committee wants voters to be comfortable with the measure and, if the council wants to have a dialogue with unions, there is no rush.
“There’s plenty of time,” he said.