LCF Explores Charter City Status

First published in the Dec. 9 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

After more than a year of numerous mandates from the state and Los Angeles County, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council explored the possibility of becoming a charter city in a meeting on Tuesday.
The council had asked staff to look into the benefits of becoming a charter city, which include adopting its own charter document and having authority on municipal affairs such as elections, compensation for city employees and public contracts.
In California, there are more than 120 cities — including Burbank, Pasadena and Glendale — that have defined their own charter document. La Cañada Flintridge is currently a general law city that is dictated by state government code and legislature.
Mayor Pro Tem Keith Eich is in favor of the idea of giving LCF more authority in local affairs but worried about the cost in money and resources to handle things such as an election. City staff said that LCF paid the county more than $50,000 to run the 2020 election.
“I look at it as one of the strongest things we can do to take back some control from Sacramento,” Eich said. “I’d love to explore it more. The cost is a little daunting, specifically the time.”
City Manager Mark Alexander said that charter cities tend to be mid- to large-sized cities that are more independent with enterprise funds and utilities. LCF falls into the small city category, with a population of about 20,000. Charters do not have control over statewide concerns such as housing, traffic and vehicle regulation and school systems and state legislators tend to label important issues as a concern.
“When legislature is addressing a particular issue or problem that they perceive within the state and they want to exercise preemptive control over that issue, almost always they are including within legislation this is a matter of statewide concern,” Alexander said.
Because of this practice from state legislators, the majority of the council agreed that there may not be a benefit to becoming a charter city, and that those that already are designated as charter cities have been for a long time.
“I’m all in favor of more local control, but I think the issue is the state of California just sort of tends to put those magic words in front of everything and overrule, which is horrible,” said Councilman Rick Gunter. “So, I guess my concern is that the effort that goes into a charter appears to have diminishing results year by year.”
Mayor Terry Walker asked staff to continue looking into the matter by reaching out to surrounding charter cities for information about costs and benefits.