10:17 PM PST on Saturday, January 30, 2010

By LESLIE PARRILLA
The Press-Enterprise

Corona is picking up a conversation that started at least 18 years ago.

In 1992, then-City Council candidate Bob McMackin campaigned on the platform that being a charter city, versus a general law city, would allow more local control and keep the state from tapping into coffers.

But for reasons that included the city’s smaller size, the idea never gained a louder voice.

The issue resurfaced at a special meeting this week when council members directed staff to research how the city would benefit from changing its organizational structure, the cost of the process, what would appeal to voters, and protection a charter structure might afford Corona from state efforts to tap city coffers.

“I’m afraid what we see now may only be the tip of the iceberg,” Councilman Eugene Montanez said about state raids on county and city money. “Maybe we can have a little more control over our destiny.”

The majority of cities in California are general-law cities, while more than 100 have established their own charters, enabling them to create different forms of government and enact their own municipal laws, providing they are compatible with the state constitution.

General-law cities such as Corona, however, are bound by laws adopted by the state Legislature.

The benefits of charters include allowing cities more control over taxes, service fees and utility rates, how contracts are awarded and creating an organizational structure. Under a charter, a city could elect a mayor and hold district elections in which candidates would be elected by people in their own areas.

Councilman Steve Nolan said at Wednesday’s meeting that he’s opposed to districts and an elected mayor.

Backers of a charter, such as Corona landscape business owner Baxter Miller, said that type of organization would allow the city to create its direction and cut itself loose from some state strings.

“It’s being in charge of the way things get done,” Miller said. “You get to reinvent yourself.”

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