Category Archives: charter amendment

Municipal Spending Caps

How to structure a municipal spending cap.

What are tax and expenditure caps?

Tax and expenditure limits (TELs) restrict the level or growth of government revenues or spending to a fixed numerical target or to increases in an index such as population, inflation, personal income, or some combination of these measures.

These limits are common on state governments. They are less common in city government.
Here are two examples:

Nashua, NH

  • 56-c. Limitation on budget increases

Recognizing that final tax rates for the City of Nashua are set by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration pursuant to RSA 21-J:35(1), the mayor, the board of aldermen, and all departments in the City of Nashua including the mayor’s office, aldermanic office, legal department, administrative services division, community services division, community development division, school department, public works division, fire department, police department, public libraries, parking garages and cemeteries shall prepare their annual budget proposals and the Board of Aldermen shall act upon such proposals in accordance with the mandates in this paragraph.

In establishing a combined annual municipal budget for the next fiscal year, the mayor and the board of aldermen shall consider total expenditures not to exceed an amount equal to the combined annual budget of the current fiscal year, increased by a factor equal to the average of the changes in the Consumer Price Index-Urban (CPI-U) of the three (3) calendar years immediately preceding budget adoption as published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This provision shall not prevent the mayor and the board of aldermen from establishing a combined annual municipal budget below this limit.

This provision shall not prevent the mayor and the board of aldermen from appropriately funding any programs or accounts mandated to be paid from municipal funds by state and federal law.

 

  • 56-d. Exception to budget limitation

The total or any part of principal and interest payments of any municipal bond, whether established for school or municipal purposes, may be exempted from the limitation defined in paragraph 56-c upon an affirmative vote of at least ten (10) aldermen. This decision shall be made annually.

In addition, capital expenditures deemed necessary by the mayor and the board of aldermen, subject to recommendation by the capital improvements committee (ref. Paragraph 77-a of the City Charter) may similarly be exempted from this limitation upon an affirmative vote of at least ten (10) aldermen.

 

  • 56-e. Reserve fund

In the event actual property tax collections and/or revenues exceed the budget allocation prescribed in paragraph 56-c, plus additional expenditure authorized pursuant to paragraph 56-d, such excess funds shall be deposited in a reserve account specifically established for the purpose.

These funds shall be drawn upon as a contingent revenue source n succeeding fiscal years, to offset a part of the budget estimated otherwise having to be funded by property taxes, or for any other municipal budget purposes, or to meet federal and state mandates, or for unanticipated emergency expenses, or as a property tax credit, upon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of the board of aldermen.

 

  • 56-f. Deficit budget control

The actual annual municipal budget shall not incur a deficit, wherein total spending excess total income during the fiscal year. If the total actual and projected income from all sources, including property taxes, municipal, county, state, and federal revenues, and funds transferred from the reserve fund established pursuant to paragraph 56-e during a fiscal year fails to meet actual and projected expenditures for the remaining part of that fiscal year, an automatic, equal and immediate across-the-board percentile cut shall be instituted in the annual budget of every city department cited in paragraph 56-c. The city comptroller (ref. Paragraph 50-b of the City Charter) shall determine the status of actual and projected income vs. expenditures for this purpose, in coordination with the city treasurer (ref. Paragraph 42 of the City Charter) and determine the requisite numeric percentile cut. The board of aldermen, upon notification by the city comptroller and the city treasurer, shall then order the cut.

This cut may be exempted or adjusted upon an affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of the Board of Aldermen.

This provision shall not prevent the mayor and the board of aldermen from appropriately funding any programs or accounts mandated to be paid from municipal funds by state and federal law.

Marco Island, FL

Section 1.04. – Expenditure Limitations.

Notwithstanding Section 1.03 above, operating expenditures shall be limited to an increase from the prior year’s expenditures of three percent (3%) plus the then-current Federal C.O.L.A. (Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics, Consumer Price Index) per annum; except that this shall not apply to: emergencies; capital expenditures as provided in Section 6.01; expenditures relating to projects or programs funded by grants, gifts, or impact fees; and expenditures, including debt service payments, relating to utility or other enterprise funds which are intended to be self-supporting for governmental accounting purposes; expenditures related to extension of the City’s wastewater utility system to serve unsewered areas provided such expenditures are funded by general obligation bonds or other obligations, including loans, approved by referendum of the electors of the City; and debt service payments related to such obligations.

(Ord. No. 09-15, § 2, 11-9-2009, referendum 1-26-2010)

Section 6.01. – Initiative and Referendum.

(1)        Ten percent (10%) of the qualified electors of the City shall have the power to petition the Council to propose an ordinance or to require reconsideration of an adopted ordinance, provided that such power shall not extend to the budget or capital program or to any ordinances relating to appropriations of money, levy of taxes, or salaries of City officers or employees, but shall extend to an ordinance providing any single capital expenditure in excess of $250,000. If the Council fails to adopt such ordinance so proposed, or to repeal such adopted ordinance, without any change in substance, the Council shall place the proposed ordinance, or the repeal of the adopted ordinance, on the ballot at the next general election, or, in Council’s discretion, at a special election.

(2)        A minimum of five (5) electors may commence initiative or referendum proceedings by filing with the City Manager or other designated official, an affidavit stating they will constitute the petitioners’ committee and be responsible for circulating the petition and filing it in proper form, stating their names and addresses and specifying the address to which all notices to the committee are to be sent, and setting out in full the proposed initiative ordinance or citing the ordinance sought to be reconsidered. Promptly after the affidavit of the petitioner’s committee is filed, the City Manager or other official designated by the Council shall, at the committee’s request, issue appropriate blank petitions to the petitioner’s committee at the committee’s expense.

(Ord. No. 09-15, § 2, 11-9-2009, referendum 1-26-2010)

 

Municipal Spending Cap Survey

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Civil Asset Forfeiture Model Language

Model language for a municipal charter amendment to address civil asset forfeiture. This language has been tailored to Michigan cities.

New Section ____ of the Charter of the City of ­­____, Michigan

Section ____. Property Seizure and Forfeiture.

As used in this section, “property” shall be liberally construed to include assets and possessions; “employee” includes anyone acting under the authority of the city. A conviction of a criminal offense is a prerequisite to forfeiture and the transfer to the City of _____ of title to property directly used in or derived from that offense. All revenues from forfeited property, including revenue derived from sharing proceeds of forfeited property from cooperation with other federal, state, or local agencies, shall be placed in a separate fund, used only to pay costs directly related to local street repair, and shall not be earmarked or allocated to law enforcement or code enforcement. At any time, a property owner may ask the City or a court to return property that was wrongly seized or because there is no reason for the City to continue to hold the property. No bond shall be required on any property seized under authority of the city. If property is wrongfully seized, the City has no reason to continue to hold the property, or the property owner is not convicted of a criminal offense that has a forfeiture provision, the city shall return, replace, or provide full compensation for any property damaged, defaced, or devalued as a result of seizure by city employees. Records of all property seizures shall be indexed by date, department, name of owner, property type, and seizure value, and include details of the conviction. These records shall be published monthly on the city’s publicly-accessible website consistent with Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act 442 of 1976.

 

Let’s break it down:

 

The language is a proposed charter amendment. The first line identifies this as a new law, gives the section of the charter, and the city name. If the language is approved this will not appear in the charter.

New Section ____ of the Charter of the City of ­­____, Michigan

 

Section title. This will appear in the charter. Not everyone is familiar with the phrase “civil asset forfeiture.” In this model “Property Seizure” was used to clarify the issue.

Section ____. Property Seizure and Forfeiture.

 

It is common to provide definitions for terms in the amendment.

                As used in this section, “property” shall be liberally construed to include assets and possessions; “employee” includes anyone acting under the authority of the city.

 

This is the meat and potatoes. Don’t take property unless a law has been broken, and then only take the property involved in the crime or gained because of the crime.

A conviction of a criminal offense is a prerequisite to forfeiture and the transfer to the City of _____ of title to property directly used in or derived from that offense.

 

This line is for cases of forfeiture with a conviction and to address revenue sharing with a state or federal agencies. Law enforcement should not be policing for profit. Proceeds from the sale of property should not go to those taking the property. In this model, the money is used for street repair. Check state statutes, forfeiture proceeds may be required to go into a specific fund. This model attempts to address the problem of local law enforcement teaming up with federal or state agencies to avoid state or local prohibitions on civil asset forfeiture.

All revenues from forfeited property, including revenue derived from sharing proceeds of forfeited property from cooperation with other federal, state, or local agencies, shall be placed in a separate fund, used only to pay costs directly related to local street repair, and shall not be earmarked or allocated to law enforcement or code enforcement.

 

Property owners should not be deprived of their assets indefinitely.

At any time, a property owner may ask the City or a court to return property that was wrongly seized or because there is no reason for the City to continue to hold the property.

 

Many states require a property owner to pay a bond before they are allowed to challenge a seizure.

No bond shall be required on any property seized under authority of the city.

 

If the items seized are perishable or have been damaged, the government should replace or fix the property. It’s important innocent owners not be penalized.

If property is wrongfully seized, the City has no reason to continue to hold the property, or the property owner is not convicted of a criminal offense that has a forfeiture provision, the city shall return, replace, or provide full compensation for any property damaged, defaced, or devalued as a result of seizure by city employees.

 

Transparency is needed to ensure the city complies with the law. This model includes the statutes dealing with government transparency in Michigan.

Records of all property seizures shall be indexed by date, department, name of owner, property type, and seizure value, and include details of the conviction. These records shall be published monthly on the city’s publicly-accessible website consistent with Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act 442 of 1976.

 

 

Civil Asset Forfeiture

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An Easy Fix?

Tacoma, WA

Alex Hays recently submitted signatures for a ballot measure which will change the city government. The ballot measure proposes a strong mayor form of government. But he made a mistake.

But there was one mistake. In an effort to redraft the city charter, there was mix up and Hays accidentally removed a section of the charter that gives people the power to create initiatives and referendums. If passed, this initiative would take that power away from people in Tacoma.

“We reacted to the city’s request that we put together a different version. They wanted the entire charter reproduced. That made it a little harder to get right and unfortunately that created a chance for this mistake to occur,” said Hays.

Now the city is claiming nothing can be done.

Citizens signed this petition and the measure should appear as signed by citizens. However, if the city council sincerely wants to retain the initiative and referendum portion of the charter (and offer that choice to voters,) they can craft a ballot question that will do the same changes as the petition submitted by Hays, but include the initiative section of the charter. Then the ballot title should make clear what each charter amendment includes:

  • Strong mayor, tighter term limits, and no initiative and referendum.
  • Strong mayor, tighter term limits, and keep initiative and referendum.

The issue getting the highest number of votes would be approved, unless neither ballot question gets over 50% and no changes would be made. I hope the city council acts quickly to ensure voters have this option.

 

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Tax Cap In Ocean City Maryland

The city attorney in Ocean City does not think citizens are allowed to petition for a tax cap. He’s basing his opinion on a tax rollback restriction. However, it is unlikely the court will decide until the city confirms enough petition signatures were submitted.

According to Charter Amendment Procedures for Maryland Municipalities, “the residents of an incorporated city or town may initiate an amendment to a municipal charter by gathering the signatures of at least 20 percent of qualified municipal voters on a petition in the same fashion that a charter amendment approved by a municipal governing body may be petitioned to referendum.”

Once the appropriate number of signatures is verified, the Town of Ocean City will be required to conduct the referendum within 90 days or at the next scheduled election, which is in November of 2016.

“I suspect that there may be some litigation over this petition, and the court is not going to reach a determination if the petition has not been verified with the requisite number of signatures,” Ayres said. “The issue is with the substance of the petition. In my opinion, the substance of the petition violates Section 6-303 of the Tax Property Article of the Maryland Code Annotated. The substance of the petition would amend the charter, so your ability to tax would be capped at the 2009 level of taxes, and that is known as a ‘tax rollback.’ In the case of Board of Election Supervisors vs. Smallwood … the court had ruled tax rollbacks are not proper charter material and violate Section 6-303.”

The Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to request the Board of Elections verify the number of signatures on the petition.

 

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Reform Or Restriction

Disclosure of funding, should petitions require a higher standard than candidates? One San Diego city council member thinks they should.

At a special session of the City Council, meeting as a “committee of the whole,” Gloria will propose a package of regulations that require that petition advertisements identify the top two donors contributing to the drive; impose tighter deadlines for publicly reporting petition campaign contributions and expenses; and revamp the rules on how petitions are formatted

It’s easy for legislators to propose new regulations like these for petitions, they don’t bear the costs. New formatting rules will mean paying attorneys more to draft petitions. These types of regulations are always added to protect us from big money special interests, but they result in making the process more difficult and sometimes impossible for volunteers and small money drives. Big money special interests can pay for lobbyists, they can pay for attorneys to wade through the regulations. Volunteers and grassroots will be the ones tripped up by this law, they don’t have funding to pay CPAs and attorneys to prepare campaign finance reports or spend hours designing new petition templates.

It’s also a bit hypocritical, does councilman Todd Gloria put the names of his two biggest campaign donor on each piece of legislation he proposes? That’s a reform people might want to see.

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Confused Voters Rarely Vote Yes

Anyone who works ballot question campaigns will tell you, confusing language almost always results in votes against the question. Ballot titles are a big deal. If voters don’t understand they will often vote it down because they don’t understand it. I’ve written about misleading ballot titles here.

What do you think of these recent ballot titles?

San Antonio, Texas, Voters approved an amendment to require public votes before allowing for light rail or streetcar track.

SHALL THE CITY CHARTER BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE THAT NO GRANT OF PERMISSION TO ALTER OR DAMAGE ANY PUBLIC WAY OF THE CITY FOR THE LAYING OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL TRACKS SHALL EVER BE VALID, AND NO FUNDS SHALL BE APPROPRIATED AND NO BONDS OR NOTES SHALL BE ISSUED OR SOLD FOR THE PURPOSE OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL SYSTEMS, UNLESS FIRST APPROVED BY A MAJORITY OF THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF THE CITY VOTING AT AN ELECTION CONTAINING A PROPOSITION SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIED FOR AND LIMITED TO SUCH PURPOSE?

Yes or No

Some reports claimed this was confusing, but voters approved it by about 2-1.

 

Arlington, Texas, Voters approve a ban on red light cameras.

Addition of Section 12 of Article X of the City Charter to prohibit photographic traffic signal enforcement.

For or Against

I consider this a little more confusing. Voters approved it 59% to 41%

 

Michigan voters denied a tax increase measure to fund roads.

A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

The proposed constitutional amendment would:
• Eliminate sales / use taxes on gasoline / diesel fuel for vehicles on public roads.
• Increase portion of use tax dedicated to School Aid Fund (SAF).
• Expand use of SAF to community colleges and career / technical education, and prohibit use for 4-year colleges / universities.
• Give effect to laws, including those that:

o Increase sales / use tax to 7%, as authorized by constitutional amendment.
o Increase gasoline / diesel fuel tax and adjust annually for inflation, increase vehicle registration fees, and dedicate revenue for roads and other transportation purposes.
o Expand competitive bidding and warranties for road projects.
o Increase earned income tax credit

Should this proposal be adopted?

Yes or No

Confusing? Voters shot this down 80% to 19%.

 

A referendum can be even more confusing. Sturgis, Michigan voters voted to keep this law 69% to 31%.

Should the City of Sturgis repeal Part II – Chapter 10 Animals
– Article II Dogs and Cats –
Section 10-33 of the City of Sturgis Code of Ordinances?
Sec. 10-33. – Operating a dog kennel in city prohibited.
No person, group of persons, association or corporation shall keep, operate, or maintain a dog kennel within the limits of the city. A dog kennel, as used in this section means any establishment wherein or whereon more than two dogs are owned, kept, or harbored. This section shall not apply to the owning, keeping, or harboring of any dog pups until they attain the age of four months.
Yes or No

As you can see, ballot titles are not always easy to understand.

 

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Dispersed Power or Central Authority

Term limits is one of the most divisive political issues in existence. People love term limits or they hate term limits.

On one side we have supporters of term limits. They want citizen legislators, accountable officials, responsive government, and power dispersed into the hands of many to avoid authoritarian government. This is the citizenry, the general populace, republicans, democrats, greens, libertarians, about 75%-80% of everyday people support term limits.

On the other side of this divisive issue we have those who oppose term limits. They want aggressive legislators who know the system, legislators who answer to them, government that gives them advantages, and more time for their people in office. This is the elected few, the lobbyists, the two party establishment, a minority of about 15% who directly benefit from controlling legislation and tax dollars.

To be sure, there are some crossovers, citizens who oppose term limits and officials who support term limits. But between these two sides division is clear. People who want power dispersed, and people who want more time (always more time) in control.

The establishment opposes term limits by talking about voter choice and elections, they downplay the incumbent advantage and political machines. They claim every election people choose to keep electing the same candidates because they really love those candidates. In Kennesaw, Georgia we can see a typical example.

From the Marietta Daily Journal:

Kennesaw Councilwoman Cris Eaton-Welsh said Thursday she won’t run for re-election, but she has three policy changes she wants to see before leaving at the end of the year.“My philosophy has always been that we’re never meant to be career politicians. That’s kind of what the country was founded on was part-time legislators. You’re supposed to come in, accomplish your job and groom someone else or encourage someone else and then move on,” Eaton-Welsh said.

Eaton-Welsh brought her proposal to Mayor Mark Mathews and the other council members Wednesday evening at a work session and received pushback from Mathews.

“You don’t think the voters already control that by leaving us in or taking us out of office?” Mathews asked Eaton-Welsh.

Eaton-Welsh said because incumbents are heavily favored in elections, “I really don’t think that they do.”

Mathews responded: “Wow.”

Mayor Mathews may be a great guy, but if he’s being honest and doesn’t think incumbents are heavily favored he’s out of touch with reality.

Term limits is very divisive, and it’s also very lopsided, voters support term limits by huge margins. If only politicians were in it for the people rather than the power.

 

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Gresham, Oregon Do Politicians Deserve A Pay Raise?

Public servants, citizen legislators, or high paid city management, what do voters want? That is the question being asked for the fifth time since 1988 in Gresham Oregon.

From Oregonlive.com:

Gresham, with an estimated population of 109,397 in 2013, is among dozens of cities that don’t pay elected leaders, according to the League of Oregon Cities. Instead, they get  $160 a month — $1,920 a year — to cover expenses such as cell phones, gas and other local travel expenses, according to city officials.

Instead of proposing specific salaries, the ballot measure would authorize the city’s Finance Committee to choose a dollar amount that’s capped. The committee, comprised of seven residents, works with City Council to adopt a budget every year.

Ballot Question:

26-166 Citizen Control and Oversight of Compensation for the Gresham Mayor

Question: Shall the volunteer Gresham Finance Citizen Advisory Committee oversee and approve compensation for the Mayor of the City of Gresham?
Summary: Gresham’s Charter prohibits City Council from setting its own compensation; does not establish a method for citizen oversight and control of compensation. The 2011 Charter Review Committee recommended a special task force further research the issue of Council compensation.

The task force convened in 2015 and recommended a volunteer citizen advisory committee (the Finance Committee) provide oversight and control over, and establish and approve the compensation of the Mayor of the City of Gresham.

Any compensation approved by the volunteer Gresham Finance Committee would be used in the annual budget process. The budget process includes notice of public hearings before the Budget Committee and City Council.
If amended, the Gresham Revised Code would read:
GRC 2.40.025 Compensation Board (Mayor) The Gresham Finance Committee shall provide oversight and control over the Mayor’s compensation and shall annually prepare and approve a compensation schedule for the Mayor of the City of Gresham. The salary shall not exceed 45% of the compensation paid to the Chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.
(New text is underlined)

Yes
No

Sample Ballot:

OR_MultnohmahCounty_SampleBallot_5_19_15

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Whatcom, Washington Charter Amendments To Restrict Non-Profits

Whatcom County, WA has some interesting charter amendments being talked about by their charter review commission.

The Bellingham Herald has been covering the charter review process. From a recent article:

A conservative member of the Whatcom County Charter Review Commission seeks to restrict the county government’s funding of nonprofits. This would be the second such proposal put forward by the commission.

A county charter amendment by commissioner Wes Kentch that is scheduled to be introduced at tonight’s commission meeting in Ferndale would require nonprofit nongovernmental organizations seeking money from the county to complete an application. The county could not commit to funding a nonprofit longer than two years, and the organization must meet certain requirements to qualify for funding.

Text of the amendment:

AMENDMENT:
Section: 6.91 – Non Profit NGO Request for Proposal Transparency
6.92 – Non Profit NGO Financial Statements Transparency
6.93 – Non Profit NGO Donor Disclosure Transparency
6.94 – Non Profit NGO Ineligibility When Legislating Through the Courts
Section 6.91 Non Profit NGO Request for Proposal Transparency
Any project involving any disbursement or receipt of monies, by Whatcom County, to or from any nonprofit NGO shall be initiated with a Request for Proposals (RFP) drafted by Whatcom County.
All agreements involving transmittal of funds between Whatcom County and any nonprofit NGO shall have a sunset clause based on the biennial budget. No sunset clause shall be extended without a new RFP process.
Any Local Integrating Organization funding passing through Whatcom County accounts to any
nonprofit NGO, excluded by law or custom from a Whatcom County RFP process, shall require full financial
disclosure by the nonprofit NGO to Whatcom County, as outlined In Section 6.92.
Section 6.92 Nonprofit NGO Financial Statements Transparency
Any nonp rofit NGO transmitting funds to or from Whatcom County shall provide full financial statements to Whatcom County, externally audited by a certified accountant, including statements of assets and balances, income and expenses, fund reserve allocations, and donors, from the two fiscal years prior to the date of RFP submittal, and for any interim year(s) while the submittal is processed, and for a period of two years following any transmittal of funds.
The penalty for falsified financial statements shall be return of 100% of funds qualified by the falsified information, and ineligibility to partner financially with Whatcom County for ten years from the date that such financial information is ruled falsified.
Section 6.93 Non Profit NGO Donor Disclosure Transparency
Any nonprofit NGO who may legally receive donations from non-disclosed donors shall be ineligible to transmit funds between themselves and Whatcom County.
Any nonprofit NGO who may legally transmit funds between themselves and another nonprofit NGO whose donors are legally non-disclosed shall be ineligible to transmit funds between themselves and Whatcom County.
Section 6.94 Non Profit NGO Ineligibility When Legislating Through the Courts
Any nonp rofit NGO initiating or supporting, with funding, legal briefs or official sanctions, litigation or citizen voter initiatives, impacting the Whatcom County Code or Charter in any way, or any other legislative codes binding on Whatcom County land and water planning processes, shall be ineligible for funding or project relationships with Whatcom County for a period of ten years after the date of final court settlement of such litigation.
Contractual agreements and projects in effect between Whatcom County and such a nonprofit NGO when such litigation or citizen voters initiatives are initiated or supported may be immediately terminated.

A previously proposed amendment would have banned outright county funding of nonprofits.

That amendment:

Title:   Shall the County Charter prohibit grants and expenditures to non-profit organizations unless the County is reimbursed by another organization or jurisdiction?
Section:   (new)
Section 6.74 Charitable AppropriationsAmendment:
Section 6.74 Charitable Appropriations The Whatcom County Executive and the Whatcom County councilmembers shall not distribute county funds via grants or expenditures, whether budgeted or non-budgeted, to charitable, educational, civic, homeowners, neighborhood, arts, trade, business, religious or scientific non-profit organizations or any other similar types of community organizations/groups not mentioned herein, unless the grant or expenditure is directly reimbursed by community, private, state, or federal grant agencies for the identical purposes for which the agency/government grant is provided.

There is opposition to this form of transparency. From Philanthropy Northwest:

The new proposal asks “shall the charter be amended to increase transparency in funding between Whatcom County and nonprofit non-government organizations (NGOs)?” It’s a seemingly benign question. After all, who isn’t for more transparency in the public sector? However, this proposal is clearly not about transparency. It is also not about best practice for all entities with which a county may conduct business. It’s about erecting barriers to the provision of “those types of services” by “that type of organization.” It also contradicts federal regulation.

First, in defining “financial statement transparency,” the proposal requires any nonprofit desiring to do business with the county to undergo an external audit. While an external audit is good business practice, it is widely understood to be both unnecessary and prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of nonprofit organizations.

 

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Elgin, Texas Mass Transit Amendment

The Elgin Petitioners Committee successfully gathered signatures on a petition that will require voter approval before the city spends taxpayer money on passenger train service.

From their website:

An Important Message For The Citizens Of Elgin

From the Elgin Petitioners Committee

The Austin area population is growing rapidly. This growth has led to major congestion on roads like IH 35 and MoPac. Elgin, and other communities in the US 290E corridor, are projected to experience similar growth in coming years.

TxDOT had planned for improving 290E to a 6 lane divided freeway. CAMPO, the regional planning agency in Austin, had pledged $148 million towards the 290E project but 4 or 5 years ago the Elgin City Council allowed TxDOT and CAMPO to divert our 290E money into other projects.

The official long range transportation plan for the 5 county region now calls for no improvements whatsoever for 290E until sometime after the year 2035. The only road improvement scheduled for the Elgin area between now and 2035 is the adding of 2 lanes to N Ave C between SH 95 and County Line Road. (SH 95 is to be widened in Williamson County in the year 2024.)

We believe that members of the City Council who advocate building a passenger train project between Elgin and Austin (the “Green Line”) may have traded away our road funding to get approval of the train project. The Elgin Petitioners Committee supports building a train line but only after the improvements to 290E and other important arteries are upgraded.

To that end, we are circulating a petition which would require the City Council to place a measure on the ballot. The ballot proposition will allow the citizens to vote for roads first, or trains first. We believe that 90% of the citizens agree that this is a good idea.

We want 290E put back into the list of transportation projects and we want our funding restored. The alternative is having 290E just as congested as IH 35 or MoPac.

The ballot language:

“The City has the power to spend taxpayer money to construct and maintain streets, roads, highways, bike trails, sidewalks and mass transit facilities, except that no taxpayer money may be spent on or contractually pledged to any passenger train project unless a public bus line shall have first demonstrated a need for train service by having 500 intercity boardings in Elgin per weekday, averaged over three months, connecting to the City of Austin.”

 

Sample Ballot

TX_Elgin_5_9_15_CitySampleBallot

Notice of Election

TX_Elgin_5_9_15_NoticeOfelection

 

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