Tonight, the Menlo Park City Council is scheduled to discuss the possibility of putting an "enabling" charter measure on the November 2018 ballot.
According to a staff report, if voters approve the switch from a "general law" city to a charter city, Menlo Park would gain flexibility in how it handles affairs in the areas of construction and maintenance contracting, land use, city finances, government structure and elections.
"In a nutshell, the benefit of becoming a charter city is the ability to have more control over local government autonomy," wrote City Attorney Bill McClure in the staff report.
One drawback is that there are some ongoing questions with the courts as to just what cities can legislate for themselves. Charter cities aren't supposed to legislate on matters that are considered of "statewide concern" – and courts' definitions of what exactly that means has shifted over time, according to Mr. McClure's report. Housing policy, for instance, was once considered a local affair, but more recent court decisions indicate that it is a statewide concern, according to the staff report.
To see more specific details of how a general law city differs from a charter city and what the impacts might be for Menlo Park, see pages 5-12 of the report.
The council is also scheduled to:
● Possibly approve a final list of its priorities for the 2018 calendar year. Learn more from the Almanac's previous coverage here.
● Hold a study session on how to set up a transportation management association.
● Without discussion, dedicate an additional $160,000 from the general fund to eliminate herbicide use in some city parks and continue to maintain those that are already herbicide-free.
The council meets in the City Council chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Menlo Park Civic Center.