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Panel to review city charter, make recommendations for changes

The committee appointed by the City Council to review the city's charter and make recommendations on changes has begun its work.

The City of Shafter became a charter city in 1995, with the charter adopted soon after. Charter cities are now required to form committees to review their charters. There are currently about 125 charter cities in California, with the only two in Kern County being Shafter and Bakersfield. Some of those cities are Irvine, San Bernadino, Santa Rosa, Fresno, Palmdale and Lancaster.

The Shafter panel includes Dennis Atkinson, Cynthia Marquez, Susie Harmer, Gerard Loaiza and Chris Dozlier. They met on Monday night, approving the rules and duties that they will be responsible for during this review period.

The committee will have meetings, training sessions, and research and discuss elements of the charter that they may want to change, and then will complete a charter amendment proposal and file a report with the city clerk before the deadline of June 30.

The committee will avoid proposing changes that are "matters of statewide concern, which are educational systems, regulations of traffic and vehicles, franchises for telephone lines, licensing of members of a trade or profession, tort claims against a government entity, and the Ralph Brown Act," according to the council's guidance and state law.

They will be encouraged to research and consider changes within the authority of the charter, solely related to municipal affairs. Items that will be researched and discussed are regulations regarding municipal elections, methods of enacting local ordinance, compensation of City officials and employees, land use and development, acquisition and establishment of municipal parks, and the imposition of a license tax on local businesses.

The growth of the city was a discussion at the beginning of the meeting. The committee asked what the population of the city of Shafter when the charter was created, compared to today. City Manager Gabriel Gonzales said that the population at the time of the adoption of the charter was approximately 10,000. Currently, the city has a population of a little over 20,000 people, with growth expected. Gonzales said, "With the development of the Gossamer Grove area, Heritage Ranch, and another major development, the projection is a growth of another 10,000 people with a full build in those areas."

Articles of the charter reviewed Monday night were the form of government, which for Shafter is a city manager/City Council government, with the council appointing the city manager and the mayor. Gonzales said that there is a different form of government, such as the "strong mayor" option, in which the mayor is the chief operating officer of the city and appoints the city manager.

From discussion, it was agreed that there will probably not be any discussion on changing the city's form of government.

There was a question on the process of determining the compensation of City Council members, which now is set by the council. Gonzales said that there will be research on how different cities are doing to determine their council's compensation.

The committee will meet five times before the completion report will be filed with the city clerk.


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