|More on Council Downsizing
June 18, 2004
The following is from today’s San Francisco Chronicle:
The Richmond City Council's recent flip-flops over whether to cut its membership from nine to seven members came back to bite it Thursday when the state Senate rejected a bill that would have allowed the city to borrow $14 million to stay afloat.
The bill -- intended to help cover the city's $35 million deficit -- needed a two-thirds vote to pass, or 27 of the Senate's 40 members. But Republicans balked, and it failed 23-11.
The bill's author, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said the Republicans were angry that the bill, AB434, no longer required that the city ask voters whether to reduce the size of the council, which is among the largest in California.
The council voted May 18 to place such a measure on the November ballot but voted a week later to delay the change until 2008. On its third vote, the council opted not to put the idea before the voters at all.
"The City Council failed to take seriously the concerns of the Senate Local Government Committee," Hancock said, noting that senators have agreed to reconsider the issue. "Right now, the ball is in the City Council's court. The economic health of the city is really hanging in the balance. I hope the council will act and put something on the November ballot."
Mayor Irma Anderson, who has supported giving voters a choice of reducing the size of the council, said in a statement that the council will put the matter to a fourth vote Tuesday.
"Without approval of this resolution, the community will be forced to endure deeper cuts for our police, fire and public works departments, with possible closures of our libraries and after-school programs," Anderson said in the statement.
Richmond City Councilman Richard Griffin, who opposed shrinking the council, said Senate Republicans are "playing politics" and that the two issues have nothing to do with each other.
"I don't think it's fair," Griffin said. "I don't think it's right for them to dictate how many council members we should have."
Richmond officials want to borrow money beginning July 1, but because the city has such a poor credit rating, investors are wary of making loans. AB434 would have provided a guarantee that lenders would be repaid.
"This is very important to the people of Richmond, because their services are on the line," Hancock said.
Sen. Bob Margett, R-Arcadia, vice chairman of the Local Government Committee, has led the charge to see the council streamlined, noting that most California cities have five-member councils.
Hancock said many Richmond residents also think a smaller city council would function better.
"That's why we're interested in smaller class sizes. Fewer council members would be a good idea," she said.
Reducing the council from nine to seven members would save the city about $27,000 a year.
E-mail Kelly St. John at firstname.lastname@example.org.