San Ana Council Opposes June Vote on Charter Changes but Will Study Them

Times Staff Writer

The Santa Ana City Council on Monday rejected a call for a special election in June on proposed changes in the structure of city government and instead voted to form a committee to study the proposals.

SAMSON, a coalition of groups threatening a recall attempt, had sought the June ballot, which would have forced every council member to seek reelection in November.

"You're saying you want (council members) to recall themselves," Councilman Dan Young told members of the Santa Ana Merged Society of Neighbors.

The study ordered Monday is aimed at putting SAMSON's demands on the November ballot and, if they pass, making them effective in 1988.

Group to Meet

The ballot measures that SAMSON wants would, among other things, establish the election of council members by wards, eliminate the city manager's job, create a full-time mayor's job to handle those duties and make the Planning Commission an elected body.

SAMSON spokesman Jim Lowman said he would recommend at a meeting Wednesday that the group begin gathering signatures to force the ward issue onto the June ballot.

But City Atty. Edward Cooper has said that even if the group gathers enough signatures, the council only has to put the measure on the next regularly scheduled ballot--in November.

In response, Lowman said he will suggest that the group collect signatures to recall the City Council. But those signatures would have to be filed by Friday.

Would Recall Themselves

Young, who will be up for reelection in November along with Vice Mayor P. Lee Johnson and Councilman Robert Luxembourger, said it was obvious why the other council members rejected a June ballot. It would mean recalling themselves, he said.

"And if they don't, they're not responsive," said Johnson, referring to SAMSON's oft-repeated complaint that the council has ignored its protests.

"You can quote me," Councilman Wilson Hart said. "I'm not that responsive."

Also, Hart said, a November election will have a much larger turnout and will save the $15,000 expense of a special election. Such major changes should be thought through very "deliberately and gradually," he said. "These are not circumstances that argue for haste."

Earlier Ward Proposal

Hart said it is a "herculean task" to write the ballot propositions that would change the City Charter and be workable. But Lowman said the city could use wording similar to a ward election proposal that was on the ballot in April, 1983. That issue was defeated by a vote of 4,484 to 2,374.

If voters defeated the ward proposal, SAMSON probably would drop its other demands, Lowman said.

He added that the $15,000 cost for an initiative election is minimal compared to other city expenditures. The cost of a recall election would be about $75,000, council clerk Janice Guy said.

Mayor Daniel E. Griset said he supports placing the ward proposal on the November ballot, and if approved, making the provisions effective in 1988. But he said he can't support a "sudden-death kind of process."

Young and Luxembourger said they support putting the proposal on the June ballot.

'Advise, Not Govern'

"Frankly, I don't think (the ballot measure) would win," Luxembourger said, an assessment that several other council members echoed.

Council members also criticized the call for election of planning commissioners. "Their basic function is not to govern but to advise me and the rest of the City Council on city issues," Hart said. An elected commissioner, Young said, would be "more likely to be a candidate and to make political decisions for his own benefit."

Lowman and SAMSON spokesman George Hanna argued that planning commissioners often go on to become council members and therefore should be subject to election and recall.

SAMSON also proposes that all seven council members be elected at once.

Chaotic Result

The result would be chaotic, Hart said.

Lowman said the group on Wednesday will discuss whether the current staggered system of elections for three seats in 1986 and four in 1988 should be maintained.

The group also had demanded that members of the Redevelopment Agency be elected. But when it was found that state law prevents direct election for that agency (which now is the City Council itself), SAMSON demanded that those members be appointed.

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