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Smart Voter
San Mateo County, CA November 3, 2009 Election
Measure I
City Clerk
City of Burlingame

Majority Approval Required

Pass: 2,570 / 53.7% Yes votes ...... 2,214 / 46.3% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Results as of Dec 29 12:09pm, 100.0% of Precincts Reporting (22/22)
27.8% Voter Turnout (77,340/277,759)
Information shown below: Impartial Analysis | Arguments |

Shall the Office of the City Clerk of the City of Burlingame be appointive?

Impartial Analysis from the City Attorney of the City of Burlingame
The City Council of the City of Burlingame has placed this measure on the ballot to ask the voters of Burlingame if the position of City Clerk should be made appointive rather than elective. Persuant to California State law, the City Clerk of any general law city, such as Burlingame, is an elective office unless the voters of the city approve a measure to make the office of City Clerk an appointive position. The Burlingame City Clerk is currently an elective office with a term of four years.

There are two qualifications for the position of elected City Clerk: first, the individual must be a resident of the City, and second, the individual must be a registered voter. Some, but not all, of the City Clerk's duties include preparing, indexing, and maintaining accurate minutes of City Council meetings and all City documents and records; printing, assembling, and distributing Council agenda packets; administering municipal elections; receiving and maintaining candidate campaign forms and City officials' statements of economic interest; revising bi-annually the City's conflict of interest code; and preparing, mailing, and publishing all official notices in a timely manner.

A simple majority of those persons voting on the measure is required to approve the measure. If the measure is approved by the voters, the position of City Clerk would become an appointive office at the end of the four year term which begins in December of 2009. Stated another way, if the measure is approved by the voters, the position of City Clerk would become an appointive office effective December of 2013. If the measure is approved by the voters, the City Council would appoint the City Clerk in the same manner as the Council now appoints the City Manager and the City Attorney.

A YES vote approves the measure.

A NO vote rejects the measure.

  Partisan Information

No on I Blog
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Arguments For Measure I Arguments Against Measure I
As cities have grown and government has become more complex, so have the duties of city clerks. Today city clerks perform important legal, technical, and administrative tasks that require professional skills and expertise. Yet state law only requires elected city clerks to be over the age of 18, citizens of the U.S., and registered voters in the cities where they serve.

More than two-thirds of California cities and 13 of the 20 cities in San Mateo County have switched from the outdated model of an elected city clerk to an appointed city clerk, which allows cities to make appointments using the same thorough process they use to select department heads, including police and fire chiefs. In 1991, Burlingame voters approved making the city treasurer an appointed position.

If this measure is approved, the city clerk would be appointed beginning in 2013 and could save the city the cost of an expensive election ($32,000).

Today the city clerk plays a vital role in communicating information to the public, working with online video streaming resources that allow public viewing of city meetings, taking minutes, keeping records of municipal codes current, and making sure officials and candidates for office follow laws relative to fair political activities and conflicts of interest. Cities don't have the luxury of dedicating a person to handle the narrowly defined duties performed by city clerks of 30 to 50 years ago.

An elected city clerk may be heavily dependent on support from politicians. In nearby cities, we have seen how politicized an elected city clerk position can become. Like other professional department heads, the city clerk needs to be politically neutral.

Please vote Yes on Measure I to save our city money and bring the city clerk out from the world of politics and into the world of professionalism.

/s/ Ann Keighran, Mayor

/s/ Terry Nagel, Council Member & Former Mayor

/s/ Rosalie O'Mahony, Council Member & Former Mayor

/s/ Jerry Deal, Council Member

/s/ Doris Mortensen, Former Burlingame City Clerk (retired December 2008)

Rebuttal to Arguments For
The proponents of an appointed City Clerk argue that "cities have grown, government has become more complex, and so have the duties of the City Clerk." We disagree. The duties of a City Clerk are set out by State law which is as follows: "City clerks must be over the age of 18, citizens of the United States, and live in the community in which they serve." The City Clerk is paid a monthly stipend of $590.00 for his or her services and offers checks and balances to government.

The City Clerk supervises nominations, precincts, vote-counting, referendum, and initiative petitions (including the recall of city council members), and verifies signatures; keeps the City seal; is responsible for the City's official records, including City ordinances and agreements, administers oaths of office, certifies affidavits, issues council authorized subpoenas, accepts claims for filing, and acts as FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) filing official for financial disclosures.

Also, the Clerk oversees the very important function of unsealing bids which ensures that multimillion dollar projects are fairly vetted and objective, lowest competitive bids prevail.

The proponents also argue that an appointed Clerk will save taxpayers $32,000 in election costs. That is not likely as the clerk's election cycle runs concurrently with the City Council race. In Burlingame's 100 year history, there have been very few times when a city council race went unchallenged.

Please join us in voting NO on Measure I and ensure the City Clerk continues to represent the Citizens of Burlingame.

/s/ Karen Key, Former Burlingame Planning Commissioner

/s/ Joe Galligan, Former Burlingame Mayor

/s/ Russ Cohen, Former Burlingame Councilmember

/s/ Donna Colson, Community Member

/s/ Cathy Baylock, Burlingame Vice Mayor 2006

Elective representation is at the very core of American Democracy. The Burlingame City Clerk should be elected by the citizens he/she must serve.

An elected City Clerk at Burlingame's City Hall can assure citizens that all records, where possible, are open to public inspection and will be both impartial and independent of both City Administrators and individual City Councilmembers.

This past spring, the City Council placed a storm drain measure on the ballot asking property owners to approve $38 million in infrastructure improvements. The balloting and vote counting process was overseen by the city's elected City Clerk assuring legitimacy and transparency at all phases of the measure.

Making this position appointive would lessen the checks and balances necessary to assure good, honest government.

Citizens are certainly as capable of selecting this office as they are in choosing members of the City Council, the San Mateo County Tax Collector, or Governor of California.

Most important of all, appointees must answer to the person or persons who appoint them. However, an elected City Clerk will have to answer directly to you, the people.

Appointees cannot be recalled and they need not be residents of the City. On the other hand, an elected City Clerk can be recalled and must be a resident of Burlingame. Elected officials also have to stand before the public for reelection.

Burlingame voters have three times before defeated this ill conceived notion of removing the City Clerk as an elected official. Please do it again.

Preserve your precious right to elect!

Vote "NO"

/s/ Cathy Baylock, Burlingame Vice Mayor 2006

/s/ Joe Galligan, Former Burlingame Mayor

/s/ A.C. "Bud" Harrison, Former Burlingame Mayor

/s/ Karen Key, Former Burlingame Planning Commissioner

/s/ John S. Root, Former Burlingame Elementary District Trustee

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
It's time to end the illusion that Burlingame's city clerks are selected by the voters through competitive elections. For the past 25 years, our clerks have been appointed by the City Council to complete the terms of clerks who departed early. After serving the remainder of the unexpired term, these interim city clerks opted to run in the next election. With one exception, all ran unopposed.

Since 1976, all of our clerks have come from the ranks of experienced city employees with proven track records.

We have had excellent city clerks in recent years, but under the present system, an unqualified person could be elected city clerk. When that happens, clerks still get paid and cities are forced to hire additional personnel to do their jobs.

Before you vote, check the facts:

By law, city records are open to the public and everyone is welcome to witness the ballot-counting process.

City clerks who have to run for re-election are far more beholden to incumbent council members whose endorsement they rely upon in order to get re-elected than professional clerks who are appointed, like all other city department heads, after a rigorous screening process.

Elections are expensive.

Recalls are expensive and time-consuming.

An appointed clerk is accountable to the city manager, who is accountable to the City Council. The council is accountable to you.

Let's implement a government reform that two-thirds of California cities have already approved. Vote Yes on Measure I.

/s/ Ann Keighran, Mayor

/s/ Terry Nagel, Council Member & Former Mayor

/s/ Rosalie O'Mahony, Council Member & Former Mayor

/s/ Doris Mortensen, Former Burlingame City Clerk (retired December 2008)

/s/ James W. Cannon, Jr., Former Trustee, Burlingame Elementary School District

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Created: December 29, 2009 12:09 PST
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