Politics & Government

Voters to decide whether Arroyo Grande should be a charter city

A sign welcomes visitors to Arroyo Grande.
A sign welcomes visitors to Arroyo Grande. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

On Nov. 4, Arroyo Grande registered voters will consider Measure C — a ballot measure asking whether to change from a general law city to a charter city.

Becoming a charter city would give Arroyo Grande control over election procedures, public bidding and contracting, and rules for use of city property, according to an impartial analysis of the measure prepared by City Attorney Tim Carmel.

The City Council could permit the use of mail-in ballots for special elections, for example, or accept donations on public works projects.

The charter would not give the council the ability to raise its own pay or raise taxes beyond what it already can do as a general law city.

Supporters say the charter would help increase local control, encourage economic development and preservation of Arroyo Grande’s small-town character, and provide more protection from state takeaways.

“We, not the state, should decide what is in the best interest of our community,” reads the argument in favor of Measure C. It was signed by all five City Council members: Mayor Tony Ferrara and council members Jim Guthrie, Joe Costello, Tim Brown and Kristen Barneich.

“They impose unfunded programs, infringe upon municipal affairs, and restrict contracting procedures that reduce the city’s ability to utilize your tax dollars in the most cost efficient manner,” the argument reads.

They wrote that the state takes more than $800,000 annually from the city to balance the state budget and fund programs. But even if Measure C passes, that money would still be directed to the state.

Most of the money is property tax revenue that the state spends on education, Arroyo Grande Administrative Services Director Debbie Malicoat said. Measure C would not prevent the state from taking that money, she added.

No argument was filed against Measure C. But opponents of the measure, including labor unions, have spoken against it at public hearings because the charter includes a provision that allows the city to set guidelines for when it could waive prevailing wage requirements on public projects.

They say prevailing wages ensure properly trained workers, good workmanship and prevent cost overruns. State law defines prevailing wage as the hourly rate within the local labor market that most workers in a particular trade are paid. It ensures that contractors don't pay their workers less in order to underbid competitors on public projects.

At the moment, however, that portion of the charter would not take effect.

According to news reports, a San Diego superior court judge has upheld legislation, Senate Bill 7, which eliminates state funding for construction projects to charter cities that use a prevailing wage exemption. The decision was expected to be appealed.

Currently, 121 of California’s 482 cities have charters, including San Luis Obispo.

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