A citizens' group seeking changes in city election procedures filed notice Friday that it intends to gather signatures in an attempt to put the changes to a citywide vote in June.
A spokesman said the group has not decided whether it will pursue the changes or instead seek a recall of the City Council, but the notice was filed to beat Friday's deadline for such ballot efforts. The group, called SAMSON (Santa Ana Merged Society of Neighbors), will meet today to decide its course of action, according to spokesman Jim Lowman.
"It is not symbolic of anything," said Lowman. "Today was the deadline. If we had not filed, there would have been no chance to gather signatures in time for the June ballot."
The proposal submitted Friday calls for seven council members to be elected by ward and for a mayor to be directly elected, rather than appointed by the council. SAMSON's original proposal for a mayor to take over the city manager's position wasn't included Friday. Instead, the mayor would have no administrative duties but would hold veto power over council decisions and cast a vote only if the council deadlocked on an issue.
Mayor Daniel Griset said the proposal came as a surprise to him because it actually reduces the mayor's power and pits the council against that office. "A mayor who can never vote except to veto something is an absolute piece of nonsense," he said, adding that he would like to see a committee examine the proposals before they are put to the voters.
SAMSON members could begin collecting signatures 21 days after the notice is published in a newspaper, and would have 200 days to collect a minimum of 6,288 signatures of registered voters, officials said. If enough signatures are gathered, it would be up to the City Council whether to place the proposal on the November ballot or to call a special election in June, as the group has requested.
The deadline for the city to place a proposition on the June ballot is March 7.