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Santa Ana : City Government Form Viewed as ‘Neanderthal’

A series of public meetings to discuss proposed changes in the city’s government was launched Monday with a question-and-answer session in which former Anaheim Mayor Bill Thom described Santa Ana’s form of government as “Neanderthal.”

Thom, one of the county’s first popularly elected mayors, and Stan Oftelie, executive director of the county Transportation Commission, sat in as non-residents providing experienced opinions on local government. A citizens group gathered enough signatures to put a measure to the voters on June 3 calling for the mayor to be elected by a citywide vote and for council members to be elected by wards.

Santa Ana, like all other cities in Orange County, has a “council-manager” system in which a part-time council and a full-time city manager run the city. Thom said he supports a full-time mayor who would have the city’s staff as his subordinates, as in Los Angeles, but stressed that the June 3 ballot proposal wouldn’t remove the city manager system. He added that he believes the ward system is “ideal” because it gives each section of the city a greater voice in city affairs.

About 100 people turned up to question Thom, Oftelie and members of a Charter Review Commission appointed by the City Council to study the city’s infrastructure. Another session is scheduled next Tuesday at Lathrop Intermediate School and a final meeting is set for April 24 at City Hall.

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Oftelie said that he favored giving council members their own city staff to analyze issues and assist them in their duties, adding that a full-time staff allows county supervisors to be “dramatically better prepared” for public hearings than their city counterparts. He added that he isn’t comfortable with the ballot measure’s provision to separate the mayor from the council, stressing that “to strip the mayor of his vote in any manner seems troublesome to me.”

The commission will incorporate the public comment received at the meetings into its final recommendations to the City Council, which could result in another ballot measure next November that would supersede the June measure, chairman Greg Sanders said.


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