On Nov. 8, ballot Measures U and V will give voters in San Clemente an opportunity to turn the elective posts of city clerk and city treasurer into appointive jobs. We urge Yes votes on Measures U and V to help ensure that the two important posts will be filled by the best-qualified professionals who can be found.
The present elective procedure represents a gamble that voters will choose political candidates with the technical skills to actually perform the work. As it is now, a candidate can qualify just by being a registered voter over the age of 18 who lives in the city. The jobs demand far more specialized knowledge and training than that. There is also much to be said for insulating public servants who hold the sensitive posts against special-interest pressures and campaign debts and obligations that raising funds and running for political office now place on candidates for the jobs.
Cities that have switched to the appointive approach are not limited by city boundaries in their search for the most qualified department heads. In fact, all other city posts in San Clemente are filled that way. And appointment does not change the fact that holders of the offices are accountable to the residents whom they serve. They remain responsible through the elected City Council.
As an added assurance to voters that they would be heard, San Clemente proposes that, once the search has produced the best-qualified nominees for clerk and treasurer, the actual selection would be made at a public meeting at which residents could make sure that there were no unanswered questions. A position as technically demanding as the city treasurer, who must not only operate within complex laws but be experienced enough to invest city funds so that they draw the greatest return, demands strict requirements that can’t be imposed under the elective process.
Residents are understandably reluctant to remove elective offices from the ballot. But not all public posts are best filled by election. The jobs of city clerk and, especially, city treasurer fall in that category.
Most California cities have discovered, sometimes through sad experience, the overriding importance of competence in such posts and have switched to the appointive process to fill them. Rather than losing control of the office, voters in those cities have gained the advantages of a skilled management team. San Clemente residents can do the same on Nov. 8 by voting Yes on Measures U and V to make the city’s clerk and treasurer appointive posts.