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Santa Rosa seeks public's input on charter

For anyone with ideas about how to improve the way Santa Rosa is governed, it's time to step up to the microphone.

Santa Rosa's charter review process — a once-a-decade mini-Constitutional Convention — hosts a special public forum Saturday.

The issues may be less weighty than those facing the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia in 1787. Instead of debating the structure of a bicameral legislature or whether to abolish the slave trade, Santa Rosa's 21-member Charter Review Committee is pondering how City Council elections should be run and who should resolve disputes with police and firefighters.

Other issues include direct elections of the mayor, the role of the Community Advisory Board and whether workers' pensions have to come through the state.

The committee, which has been meeting for months, is expected to tell the City Council by May what changes it thinks should be put before voters in the fall. The City Council makes the final decision.

The meeting runs from 10a.m. to 1 p.m. at the city's Utilities Field Operations building, 35 Stony Point Road.

Even though all its votes to date have been preliminary, the committee appears to have made up its mind on a key issue. It voted 16-0 against a directly elected mayor, citing in part the experience of former Petaluma City Council members who said that having a mayor with limited power has been challenging.

But other issues are far from settled, and whether they ever reach the ballot box could turn on input from the public.

District elections

The committee already has given a tentative thumbs-down to district elections, the most divisive issue it has faced. The straw vote was 10-6, but several members have said they will bring an open mind to Saturday's public forum.

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