The charter is in the city’s constitution, which is adopted by the votes of the people. The charter describes council members’ powers and duties, when council elections are held, the structure of city government and additional rules.
“The charter requires that once every eight years, the city council appoint a citizen’s committee to take a look at the charter, review it and offer any recommendations for changes to the city council,” Riverside City Clerk Colleen Nicol said. “If recommendations are moved forward, the council will put the measures on the ballot, because the charter cannot be changed without voter approval.”
The city council will appoint nine members to fully review the charter and recommend to the city council which charter amendments, if there is any, to be on the ballot following the regular municipal election for the mayor.
The city clerk is accepting applications now through Dec. 1. In order to apply, one must be a registered voter in the city of Riverside. Since the process has just started, only 2-3 applications have been turned in so far.
“Throughout the month of December, we will do the process of review- ing the applications, conducting interviews and making the appointments,” Nicol said. “The goal in the tentative calendar is that the charter reviews committee would begin their work in January.”
The “Charge and Scope of the Work for 2011/2012” document states that the committee considers whether the charter meets the needs of the city of Riverside currently, whether it will meet the needs in the future and whether it should be revised to address those needs.
The last review, back in 2004, the council put 12 possible changes on the ballot and voters approved nine of them.
In the article, “Riverside: City charter review committee approved” by The Press Enterprise, the approved changes consisted of requiring that each ward be represented on city boards, that the city to have an ethics code and placed the police review commission into the charter so only voters can change or eliminate it.
Due to the fact that the charter is 31 pages long, it will take a while for the committee to review the document.
“It will probably take a year for them, it took a year last time to thoroughly go through the charter,” Nicol said. “It is a yearlong commitment.”
The charter states that the duties and powers of the committee are to hold public meetings to receive input on proposed charter amendments and present a final report with recommendations to the city council by the last Tuesday in May preceding the next regular municipal election for mayor.
Besides being involved in local government, there are also many benefits in serving the committee.
“They learn a lot about local government, the workings of the charter, meet and speak with elected officials and meet other people in the community,” Nicol said. “Some people find it very rewarding to participate in the decision making process that will have a direct effect on their community and their neighborhoods.”
If you are a resident of Riverside and are interested in applying for the committee, applications are available online at http://www.riversideca.gov/city_clerk or the City Hall, 3900 Main St.