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[whitespace] What's hot and what's naught in the county's charter amendments

Most of these measures emerged from the research and recommendations made by the county's charter review committee, and the county supervisors finished the job. Politicians' dream or voters' nightmare? You be the judge.

Measure A

This valley's housing problems aren't news anymore, but that doesn't mean they've eased. Rents are horrendous and still climbing (a $1200 two-bedroom apartment is average) and the vacancy rate for apartments ping-pongs between 1 and 4 percent. There are few compelling reasons not to address the housing shortage here.

But Measure A is not going to solve it. It will authorize (not require) the building of about 540 new housing units each year, effectively slicing through red tape for developers who want to rustle up some state or federal funding for their projects. Measure A will not provide funding for the new housing. And city planning commissions and councils will still have to approve developments.

Even though at first glance Measure A looks like a better deal than it really is, it's still a good first step: small, but in the right direction. Vote Yes

Measure B

This measure cleans up out-of-date language in the county charter. Right now the charter refers to "justice courts," which the state eliminated in 1995 by combining them with the municipal courts.

If you are a neatnik, vote yes on this measure to make yourself feel better. If you don't mind some loose ends lying around, vote no. Either way, county government will not screech to a grinding halt. Vote Yes

Measure C

Though a little more complicated than Measure B, this measure is really just a language edit that changes little. Under the current charter, the county is required to have a council in place which fosters cooperation between public agencies in the various cities. In 1993, this group disbanded because it was duplicating the work of Santa Clara County Cities Association.

Measure C would delete the language that requires the Board of Supervisors to set up a committee which no longer exists. Instead, the charter would simply encourage regional cooperation, allowing the board more flexibility in its approach. Vote Yes

Measure D

This one seems pretty easy. The proposals in Measure D would eliminate the current guidelines for advisory committees chosen by the Board of Supervisors. Passage makes it possible to set up special guidelines for specific committees without having to pass another charter amendment for each one. This saves the county money, which one would think ought to make the folks over at the County Taxpayers Association happy. But, no. They've pointed out that Measure D would also allow the supes to put people on these advisory committees who don't actually live in Santa Clara County. The fact is, these are advisory committees. The supes ought to be able to get the best advice they can, even if every now and then an advisor happens to live in the foreign countries of Fremont or Redwood City. Vote Yes

Measure E

Six years ago Santa Clara County voters approved two-term limits for their county supervisors, whose terms last four years each. Typical of term-limit legislation, the measure arose from criticism of career politicians who languish at their posts and focus their political efforts on ensuring infinite re-election.

True, voters approved the 1992 term-limit measure with a 70 percent majority. But Measure E supporters contend that voters weren't allowed to fine-tune their decision. They were presented with an option of a two-term limit or none at all. Measure E advocates point out that the job of county supervisor is complex and that constituents will benefit from experienced supervisors who stay in the job long enough to see their work through.

Democracy with a small "d" sticks citizens, not ordinances, with the job of deciding who stays in office and who gets canned. Measure E gives voters a little more civic responsibility, and maybe even some better results from supes who know the ropes. Vote Yes

Measure F

If no candidate gets a majority of votes in a county election, the top two vote-getters go head-to-head in a runoff. Under the proposed amendment, voters would be able to rate all of the candidates on the ballot in order of preference: first choice, second choice, third choice, and so forth. It's a little complicated, but essentially if no candidate got a majority of votes among first choices, then the second (or third, or fourth) choices could be used to determine the winner. In other words, there would not be a runoff.

Bad idea. Runoffs give voters a chance to take a second look at candidates and there's nothing wrong with that. Vote No.

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From the October 22-28, 1998 issue of Metro.

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