Wednesday Oct 20 2010
What’s the role of city council?
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
As the election approaches, many have expressed an interest in what the Rocklin City Council is responsible for and how the mayor is chosen. On Nov. 2 residents will have the opportunity to chose two candidates to join Rocklin City Council. The city of Rocklin operates under the Council-Manager form of municipal government. The city council enacts laws and legislative policy, and the city manager, acting as the administrative head of city government, hires all city employees, supervises operations and enforces the laws and policies as adopted by the city council. Current councilman Scott Yuill, who also serves as mayor, said the council directs the policy by majority rule. “Good local government is important because decisions directly affect neighbors and neighborhoods where we all live,” Yuill said. Council can directly affect fees like garbage collection, business license, recreation and programs. The city manager runs the day-to-day operation of the city departments and looks to the city council for policy direction. The city manager proposes a budget prepared by city staff and the council approves or disapproves it by majority vote. Longtime councilman Peter Hill said the best part of the job is solving problems in the community. “The city had major flooding problems on Pacific Street for many years, but using the Redevelopment Agency, we were able to reconstruct the drainage system that had been built in the 1900’s,” Hill said. The Safe Routes to school program now wrapping up in downtown constructed not only sidewalks, but new infrastructure for some of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. “Most of the downtown area had no sidewalks,” Hill said. “In winter, the kids walked to school in the mud.” Hill said the city partnered with the school district to build the swimming pools at the high schools and the new gym at Rocklin Elementary School. “It had an antiquated multi-purpose room that was not equal to what newer schools had,” Hill said. “We were able to provide a building for the new Rocklin Library so we have a library that will serve a community our size.” Council members are elected to four-year terms of office – two seats are up one election cycle, then three seats the next. The top two (or three) with the most overall votes win the seats. “Like many general law cities our size, our council members serve at-large and the mayor position is appointed by the sitting council,” Yuill said. “Each council member carries an equivalent vote and represents the entire city — meaning no one council member represents specific districts within the city.” While the council does not carry a salary or benefits, they are paid a $650 gross monthly stipend (before taxes), according to the city. The mayor and vice mayor are elected by the city council itself between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 each year, usually for one-year terms. “Because positions are part-time, the council has done its best to rotate the mayor position in order to spread the extra work that comes with the position evenly among all council members,” Yuill said. “In my case, I am serving my first four-year term on the council and as mayor in my fourth year.” The mayor does not carry additional authority or weight to his or her vote, but does take on more responsibilities including running the council meetings, issuing proclamations, receiving a higher number of contacts from citizens and community groups, and participating ceremonially in many community activities among other activities. And in most cases serves as a spokesperson for the city in inquiries from the media. While council members do not have an office in the city buildings, they do keep a mailbox for correspondence with citizens. That’s something Yuill said is an important aspect of the job. “I should be accessible and responsive,” Yuill said. “Decisions should be reached after thorough research and input from all sources. It’s both an honor and a privilege to serve.” The city council holds meetings on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at 3970 Rocklin Road. Copies of the agenda and all agenda materials are available on the city’s website at www.rocklin.ca.us. Eight candidates are on the ballot for the Nov. 2 election: Aman Singh Gahoonia, Greg Janda, Mark Klang, Gary Lane, Michael Murphy, Mike Rose, Diana Ruslin, and Scott Yuill. Hill, who was first elected to the council in 1980, has advice for the newly elected. “The most important things I learned when I was first elected is to read the agenda reports carefully,” Hill said. “Base your decisions on facts, and listen to whoever wants to talk to you because they may have ideas you haven’t thought of.”