Mayor supports charter city proposal
November 20, 2012
South Lake Tahoe Mayor Claire Fortier called on the City Council to re-examine becoming a charter city during the second annual State of the City Address this week.
The city could draw a new group of leaders into the public process by having a paid, full-time council under the designation, Fortier told a packed house in City Council chambers at Lake Tahoe Airport Tuesday.
“By offering compensation, we offer competition and competition creates diversity,” Fortier said.
Each council member receives about $400 per month for what amounts to a 40-hour-per-week job, Fortier said. The stipend is not enough for those looking to lead a small city with big issues, Fortier said.
Becoming a charter city would also give the city greater control of municipal affairs, like regulating police and conducting city elections, according to the League of California Cities.
About 80 percent of the nearly 500 cities in California, including South Lake Tahoe, are general law cities. The remaining 20 percent are charter cities, according to the League.
The council last discussed the concept in August 2011. At that meeting, Fortier said the council should re-examine the possibility in six months. On Tuesday, she said she fully supported the switch.
City Councilmen Hal Cole and Tom Davis both expressed concerns over the amount of city staff time needed to properly consider the possibility at the 2011 meeting.
During Tuesday’s address, Fortier noted the city’s “truly remarkable” accomplishments during the past two years, especially considering significant cuts in funding and staff.
“It has been a banner year, a year of real achievement,” Fortier said.
She highlighted a list of items, including the construction of Lakeview Commons and Bonanza Park, efforts to improve the U.S. Highway 50 corridor, progress on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Regional Plan Update, inter-agency collaboration and getting medical marijuana “under control” as a few signs of the city’s momentum.
Among the successes, Fortier also acknowledged the ongoing concern with rising health care costs for city employees.
“Until we solve this problem, the city will find it exceedingly difficult to achieve financial stability,” Fortier said.
Fortier received a standing ovation from the audience following the speech. The mayor, who has long-term plans to move to Washington state, has been unable to sell her house in South Lake Tahoe and has no immediately plans to move.
She plans to stay through the passage of the Regional Plan Update and may end up serving the remaining two years of her term depending on her circumstances, Fortier said Tuesday.
The council is expected to select which member will serve as the city’s next mayor during their Dec. 11 meeting.