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October 18, 2009

Comments

Ron Fulderon

I have not seen any information of the financial implications of this. What is the salary/benefits for this job? Is it different based on whether he or she is appointed or elected? Is the healthcare-for-life benefit (like the city council members get) different between an appointed position or elected position?

I would like to see this reported in the newspaper.

Terry Nagel

Editor's note: Terry Nagel had posted the ballot argument for Measure I in this space.

The editors suggest you read this argument along with the argument against, the rebuttal and the impartial analysis. They are available for viewing at:

http://www.smartvoter.org/2009/11/03/ca/sm/meas/I/

Terry Nagel

In answer to your question, Ron, the job of city clerk pays $590 a month, the same amount City Council members receive. Both are in the same employee category with other city employees who (as of March 2008) receive lifetime medical benefits for themselves after 10 years of service; lifetime medical benefits for themselves and their spouse after 20 years. Since no one in their right mind would do the job of city clerk for $590 a month, we also appoint the same person as "deputy city clerk" and pay her (it's always been a woman) a regular salary; total compensation ranges from $88,000 to $105,000, depending on experience. This pay is in line with what other cities pay for this department head position, which carries a great deal of responsibility.

It does not matter whether the person is appointed or elected; the clerk would still fall in the same employee category. But it would be cheaper if we did not have to pay for two positions.

There were only two city clerks in Burlingame's first 68 years. In recent years, there has been more interest in the job. Should there be a contested clerk election in a year when no one challenges the council incumbents, we would incur the cost of a special election (about $32,000). If an unqualified clerk were to be elected that the public wishes to remove, the only recourse is an expensive and time-consuming recall election.

alittlebird

There are council members who are beholden to certain people or groups in this town. Why should the city clerk be beholden to the council members and not to the city's constituents as a whole? When have we ever had to hold a special election to elect a city clerk? Never. This is just another way of some members of the council trying to maintain control. It is wrong in so many ways. Read the rebuttals and I think you will agree.

Russ

Actually, we don't pay for two positions. The salaries are combined. If we were paying for two positions, there would be two separate insurance policies, retirement benefits etc. There are not and there never has been.

It's a huge assumption that Terry makes when she says, "no one in their right mind wants to do the job for $590 per month." Excuse me, people run for office all the time for the same amount and less, knowing how hard the job is. She herself is an example. Is she saying that everyone who runs for office is out of their minds?

Serving the public is something that many people in Burlingame want to do and some even would do it on a volunteer basis. The salary of $590 a month is irrelevant to the argument of whether the city clerk should be elected or appointed.

It's simple, the clerk should not answer to the council. It is the council she/he is supposed to be watching.

BG4

Elections cost money for the candidates. If they run unopposed, this is not an issue, but if there are multiple candidates, our City Clerk now needs a campaign organization, and would need to raise money. I think we should find the most qualified City Clerk and not the most qualified City Clerk who also wants to be elected to the position. Mary Ellen has been doing a fine job, but are we limiting ourselves to a smaller candidate pool by keeping this process?

Russ

You could say that about Council Candidates. Many qualified people don't run because it's too hard to raise money and put together an all volunteer team. So should council members be appointed just because campaigning is hard? I think not.

Remember, this isn't about making it easy. It's about making it fair.

BG4

Yes Russ, however, City Council is not a primary avocation, the position is such that Council members can hold their "day jobs". (Yes, I recognize the Council commitments in reality constitute a full time job, but that is another discussion). The City Clerk is a full time job requiring specific skills, and adding campaigning seems incongruous. Using the fairness logic, why wouldn't ALL top tier City positions be via elections? City Manager, Department Directors, Police Chief, etc.

Russ

Those positions do not serve as oversight or checks and balances for the council or for proper government. The city clerk does. That is the simple answer for why this office, and especially this office, should be elected.

I am also unclear as to what specific skills are needed for this position that can't be easily learned. Much like in the private sector...new responsibilities, new training. Professional enrichment happens everyday.

BG4

One more clarification from the above thread. The voters elect the City Clerk and authorize the $590/month salary. Then the City Manager hires an "Deputy City Clerk" for $81,000 - 98,000 (depending on experience), merges them and voila! a City Clerk elected by the people, yet still beholden to the City Manager for 93% of his/her salary. If we were serious about autonomy, and worried about checks and balances, why wouldn't the fully salaried position be the one we elect?

Joanne

I'm curious what the big driving force was in even suggesting a change. Why is this on the ballot?

Russ

You're right BG4. That's the way it works today. Perhaps if there were an election with more than one candidate for city clerk, we would elect a city clerk that would handle very specific duties set out by law and the deputy would assist the dept. as the deputy does today. There could be very clear separation of duties.

But, it seems to me, this line of thought is not relevant to appointment vs. election.

And yes, Joanne, I too wonder why the need for another ballot measure when the matter was defeated a few short years ago.

Sham

This should be an appointed position.

We can trust our city manager to find the right applicant and then there is no "political beholdening" for anyone.

The idea that this is because some council members want "control" is absurd.

Russ

Interesting perspective in today's letters to the editor in the Daily Post.

An excerpt:

...While Burlingame has little history of corruption, why should voters diminish their ability to hold elected officials accountable and remove one of the most effective checks on institutional power and influence?

An independent clerk is the guardian of the public's right to know...the clerk assures that the council conduct themselves according to the law and can hold them accountable if they are not. Burlingame voters rejected similar measures in 1970, 76 qnd 99.

Measure I is simply an attempt to silence the people's watchdog in City Hall.

Terry Nagel

I am puzzled as to how an elected clerk would assure that the council would "conduct themselves according to the law and hold them accountable if they are not." Can you give an example of an instance where this has happened in Burlingame? The vast majority of people have no clue who the city clerk is when they vote for the sole person running for that position.

Regardless of whether the clerk is elected or appointed:
--All city records are open for public inspection.
--The public is always welcome to inspect ballot counting by the clerk during municipal elections.
--All bid openings are open to public inspection.

What prompts you to think an elected clerk would be independent? The clerks have been appointed by the council (from the ranks of experienced city employees) for the past 25 years when the sitting clerk retired early, then those clerks have run unopposed (except in one instance) in the next election.

Furthermore, a past Burlingame council majority nearly appointed one council member's campaign manager to the position of city clerk a few years back when the sitting clerk retired early. It would be much better to have the clerk appointed by the city manager, whose work is directly affected by the effectiveness of the person holding the position.

meatloaf

you go, girl!

Russ

Every point you make in your previous post is irrelevant.

For example, whether the clerk has ever had to admonish a member of council in the history of Burlingame doesn't really matter. The point is she/he has the authority to do so under an elected position.

It brings to mind the question: "As a council member, what do you have to hide? Why don't you want a council watchdog?

Your point that all city documents are open to the public might be technically accurate, but ask yourself how many citizens have the time and energy to go down to city hall and watch the process to make sure Mr./Mrs. Council Member's cronies aren't being awarded big city contracts. Awarding of contracts is part of the duties of the clerk and I want someone making certain that this is done in the fairest possible way without intentional or indirect influence from anyone on council. Again, it doesn't matter if it ever happened in Burlingame. I want to make sure it never does.

Your contention is that the council has appointed the city clerks for the last 25 years by default. By supporting this measure, you imply that you like it that way. I don't for all the reasons I have already written about.

You mention effectiveness of the position. How is this position less effective if it is appointed or elected? I see no difference. The skills to perform the job can be learned. All previous city clerks needed to learn new skills to perform the job that they didn't possess when they accepted the position.

Vote "NO" on Measure I. Keep the City Clerk an elected position.

BeenAround

I have another reason why I feel the position should remain elected. It has nothing to do with this so called "higher technical" ability.

Appointing someone means they have no requirement to live in Burlingame. Potential applicants could live as far away as they wish.

I remember when I I had to spell "Floribunda" to a store I was ordering something from. I said it fives times before it was apparently entered into the computer correctly.

What about the history of Burlingame? Did you know we have no streets in Burlingame? Would a City Clerk who lives in San Jose for example know this?

Would they even care about "anything but" being technical? The City always seems to be looking for ways to go green.....cut down on pollution and elect a local, maybe they will walk to work.

Vote "NO" on Measure I!

Bertrand

Well let's get the park superintendant and how about the police chief and the fire captain. Do we have a city rat catcher? They should be elected too ... and they all should live in Burlingame too.... No foreigners here!

This is all nonesense. An elected position is a political position. The clerk is a technical job. It should be appointed just like the city manager. I'm sure they will learn how to spell Floribunda!

October 22

There are members of our city staff who do not live in Burlingame so does that make them worse members of our city staff. Of course not because they are respected and work for our city.

The city manager can appoint a member of his staff - just as he does with other members of his staff.

Paranoia is alive and well in Burlingame.

Editors Baylock/Garrison/Cohen - are you going to delete this comment like you do others?

Burlingame Voice

Unsubstantiated accusations will not be tolerated on this site.

Since it's relaunch, this site has enjoyed a high level of discourse with very few exceptions. Let's keep it that way.

Thank you.

Russ

Many people in Burlingame assume that our little town has never had it's share of council corruption and that the city clerk has never had to "watch" the council.

One example would be Peter Dahl. Mayor Dahl was removed from office after being found guilty of bribery.

Holy Roller

Getting back to Been Around..
The City of Burlingame Park Dept has really been able to come to terms with the financial problems that face all the Penninsula communities.
The City Manager presented Randy Schartz with the realities of of his tenure.
Randy Schartz left for San Bruno.
His replacement, Greg Feoll, was reduced to a part time position. "He saw the writing on the wall." He left for Sacramento.
Tim Richmond retired.
Now recives $90,000.00 per year plus benefits.
Mr. Richmond is now a counsultant for the Park Dept. @ 127.21 per hour.
How does this stuff go on and on?
Please, please ask your City Elder.
The same thing is happening at the City of Burlingame Police Dept.

The question I would like answered(City Elders) is
Why/how is our Park dept so great now?
(Great job during the storm last week)
Why is so much money being spent on UPPER management that is not needed?

Bertrand

re: a high level of discourse with very few exceptions ... I think that should be restated as a high level of biased editing and selective reporting. Bring back the old voice .... at least all sides of the arguments were permitted.

fred

Amen, Bertrand. Open this site up.

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