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As anyone who reads this can tell, I’m mildly obsessed with the city charter and all the attempts to reform it. The U-T‘s editorial board hasn’t been too excited about it until this two-part editorial series came out Sunday and Monday.

The paper, unfortunately, just like the mayor, was determined to confuse residents about what should happen now.

Let’s start here. Monday’s editorial listed out how the paper feels on each of the major proposed changes:

Every one of the 11 recommendations merits serious attention by the City Council, which to date has shown disturbingly little interest in addressing charter reform. Instead of studiously ignoring this issue, the City Council should schedule a series of public hearings with the goal of putting a slate of charter amendments before voters on the June 2008 ballot.

I’m not sure how you “studiously ignore” an issue. But it sounds awfully insidious.

Below that flourish with the language, the editorial listed those “most important matters” that should be reviewed for placement on the 2008 ballot.

The most important matter to the editorial board was the mayor’s veto power. The second most important matter was a “Bigger City Council.” The U-T disagrees with the committee on this point.

We recognize the importance of having an odd rather than even number of City Council districts, but adding three additional members is unnecessary. This issue can be solved at much less cost to taxpayers by adding a single seat, making a total of nine.

But this is where it gets a bit weird.

How so?

The editorialists’ third most important matter was to deal with the strong-mayor form of government. In 2004, residents approved the strong-mayor form of government, which made the mayor the city’s chief executive rather than simply a glorified member of the City Council. But it was a five-year trial period that is scheduled to end in 2010.

The mayor’s Charter Review Committee recommended it be extended now until 2014, when it would automatically become permanent — a wholly insulting attempt at downplaying the significance of making the system permanent two-years before its trial period ended.

The mayor — realizing how awkward that was — recently announced that he didn’t want voters to have to decide on strong mayor until 2010. The U-T follows suit.

Our preference is that the City Council simply commit to putting the matter on the ballot in the spring of 2010, which would give the electorate ample opportunity to assess the pros and cons of the “strong mayor” system.

But how does this work with the U-T‘s position that the second most important matter for the 2008 ballot would be an expansion of the City Council to nine in order to avoid the “possibility of deadlocks created by tie votes” that an even numbered council would risk? After all, if the City Council took the U-T‘s advice and put a ballot measure on the 2008 ballot that expanded the City Council, then what would happen if the 2010 measure to pass strong mayor failed?

The mayor would once again become part of the City Council and be a (oh no!) 10th vote on the council. And, once again, the “possibility of deadlocks created by tie votes” would be revived.

This may seem like a technicality, but it’s more than that. For some reason, the mayor decided to bail on his push to have the city reaffirm the strong-mayor form of government in 2008.

But the thing is, this is the most important part of the city charter — it affects everything else. It’s just plain ridiculous to vote on the mayoral veto or on expanding the City Council or four of the five other “most important matters” the U-T demands city officials put on the ballot this next year. Strong mayor affects everything. If neither the mayor, nor the U-T want residents to vote on its effectiveness until 2010, then there is nothing to vote on until then.

It should be, how should I say it, studiously ignored.

SCOTT LEWIS

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