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Torrance Council Rejects Changes Offered by League of Women Voters

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An effort to change the Torrance City Charter and revise how City Council members get paid was firmly rebuffed Tuesday by a committee of council members who say they remain unconvinced that major changes are needed.

The Torrance League of Women Voters had called for the review, saying that some sections of the charter are obsolete.

A league report described the current method of paying council members as misleading, and it urged limiting council members to two four-year terms. All seven current City Council members have served at least one term.

The league arguments failed to sway the council committee charged with studying the proposals.

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“I don’t see chaos in the city because of problems in the charter,” said Councilman Mark Wirth, one of the committee’s three members.

League leaders expressed chagrin at the outcome.

“I just think it’s not interesting to them. It’s not sexy,” said Jeanette Pierson, who chaired the league’s charter review group.

“I think, also, they don’t want to see those issues opened up,” added league President Lynitta Schaffer, citing members’ pay and term limits. “We’re not necessarily surprised, but disappointed.”

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Schaffer could not predict Tuesday what her group will do in the face of the committee decision.

The council committee unanimously recommended against the league request for a thorough charter review by a citizens’ panel. Members did say they would be willing look at individual concerns that the league chooses to bring to the council.

The full City Council will act on the recommendation, probably in the next two weeks, said Councilwoman Dee Hardison, chairwoman of the Employee Relations and Department Organization Committee.

The 90-member Torrance league has successfully suggested some charter changes in the past. It made its latest recommendations in mid-June after a yearlong study of the charter, which is the basic document outlining city operations. Mayor Katy Geissert referred the matter to Hardison’s committee.

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One major recommendation would have struck the charter provision for paying council members $100 a month. The league instead believes that council salaries should be set each year during the annual budget process.

League members called the $100 salary misleading because it does not reflect the other ways that council members are reimbursed, such as a flat monthly $410 car allowance and reimbursements of up to $250 in expenses monthly.

But council members said Tuesday they are reluctant to wade into the subject of council compensation. Councilman Dan Walker said he disagrees that the current method of compensation needs reform.

“We’re going to get into one giant brouhaha, any way you cut it,” Walker said. “There’s no reason to open up that conflict in the community.”

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Council members were also cool toward the idea of limiting themselves to two four-year terms. The league had suggested the limit in the hope of encouraging more people to run for council seats. In the March, 1990, election, only one challenger emerged to run against three incumbents for three seats; the challenger lost.

“The two-term limit is a very hard issue. It certainly has pluses, and it certainly has minuses,” Hardison said in an interview Wednesday. “I think it’s a shame we don’t have more people involved. . . . People do beat out incumbents, but you have to do your homework.”

Hardison added, however, “I don’t see the council (members) wanting to put those limits on themselves.” And, she pointed out, the mayor is now limited to two terms. “We do have turnover every eight years because our mayor does not return.”

One league concern did stir some mild interest, that of whether the city clerk and treasurer should be appointed, rather than elected, as they are today. City Clerk John A. Bramhall wants the City Council to appoint the clerk, just as it appoints the city manager and city attorney.

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“It will probably be something the council will have some discussions on,” Hardison said.


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