10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

With Riverside’s charter review set to kick off in about four months, several council members want to talk about making their jobs full time and taking more control of city affairs.

A charter gives cities more control over municipal affairs than non-charter cities have. Riverside’s charter requires that it be reviewed every eight years. Any suggested changes are put before voters at the same time as the mayoral election.

Council members’ ideas for possible charter changes include describing the council as full-time employees, putting the chief finance officer under the council’s direct authority, and disconnecting the mayor’s election from the presidential election cycle.

The city charter doesn’t specify how much council members have to work or whether they’re full or part time, but Mayor Ron Loveridge said longstanding practice has been that council is a part-time job.

“I think there’s always some worry whether you want to have eight mayors or eight full-time elected officials,” he said.

The mayor’s job is full time. Council members say they generally devote at least 40 hours a week and often more to their elected office, even if they have outside jobs.

“For somebody to say that this is a part-time job, that is absolutely not the truth,” said Councilman Paul Davis, who also runs a furniture and appliance sales and leasing business. “To be an appropriate representative, you have to be available 24/7.”

Davis said he will propose the charter be changed to say council members are full time. Councilmen Mike Gardner, who campaigned on being available to voters, and William “Rusty” Bailey said the issue is worthy of discussion.

Davis said he doesn’t think council members’ $39,408 annual salary should change. Bailey said it would be “political suicide” for the council to boost its own pay.

Council compensation is set by ordinance rather than the charter, but it is likely to be linked to the full time/part time question.

The combination of the demands of the job and the current salary “limits the pool of people that are able to serve,” Gardner said.

He and Councilwoman Nancy Hart don’t have other jobs, Melendrez and Davis are self-employed, Adams does consulting for chemical companies, Bailey is a high school teacher and Mac Arthur is a vice president at a financial firm.

The last charter review was in 2003. A committee of 17 residents met for a year and proposed 12 changes. Voters approved nine of them in 2004.

The process will start early this time because voters in 2006 agreed to align the mayor’s election with the president’s election, City Clerk Colleen Nicol said.

The council will vote in November on forming a committee to review the charter.

For the 2011 review, Davis said he’ll also propose that the city’s head finance official report directly to the council, like the city manager, city clerk and city attorney do now.

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