Petaluma’s Charter–A Little Civics Lesson

The current discussion on filling the vacant seat on the City Council has once again included a reference to the City Charter and possible amendments to it. See Patch Letter To the Editor By Mayor Glass 

Over the years, I have noted references, from time to time, to Charter provisions dealing with one topic or another requiring that certain action be taken or preventing an action from being taken. Sometimes the Charter dictated outcome has been desirable and at other times there was a question whether an amendment would be desirable going forward.

In California legal parlance, Petaluma is what is known as a Charter City as opposed to a General Law City.*  According to the League of California Cities, 120 of the 480 cities in California are Charter cities.  And Petaluma is one of them.**

The Petaluma Charter provisions are available online but, being in a curious mood, I asked the City Clerk, Claire Cooper, if I could see the physical document.  She asked if I wanted to see the original, and I, of course agreed.  I drove over, half expecting to see something like the Dead Sea Scrolls or yellow parchment leather-bound documents. Of course, they were not quite that old.  But old enough. 

Consider the Articles of Incorporation from 1858, signed by the California Secretary of State, Ferris Forman…

Next, consider the original City Charter of 1876, signed by Secretary of State, Thomas Beck…

As an aside, seeing the “originals” of Petaluma’s founding documents was instructive as to how documents were created in the days before computers, IPads, IPhones, and even typewriters…

Of course, the Petaluma Charter has been amended sporadically over the years and it is available online in its present form. (Click Here)  

However, charters need regular updating. Certainly, the dilemma of how to fill the vacant seat is one part of the charter that may need examining and amendment to prevent future difficulties. Many cities have a regular review process performed by committees or commissions. Also, it must be kept in mind that charter amendments require voter approval.

Notwitstanding, I wonder if we would not all be better served going forward if the Council set up some kind of review committee to gather up all the creaky, outdated parts of the City Charter and bring them up to date to submit to the voters…and continue the process into the future.

A pretty tall order, I realize.  Please consider this one of my rare streaks of optimism.  My doctor says he has a pill for it…I have an appointment tomorrow.

In closing, I want to thank Claire Cooper, City Clerk and Deborah Padovan, Deputy City Clerk for their time and courtesies…and the white gloves to handle the documents!


*For background as to the difference between the two forms of California municipal government:

** Callifornia Charter Cities

  • Adelanto
  • Alameda
  • Albany
  • Alhambra
  • Anaheim
  • Arcadia
  • Bakersfield
  • Bell
  • Berkeley
  • Big Bear Lake
  • Buena Park
  • Burbank
  • Carlsbad
  • Cerritos
  • Chico
  • Chula Vista
  • Compton
  • Culver City
  • Cypress
  • Del Mar
  • Desert Hot Springs
  • Dinuba
  • Downey
  • El Centro
  • Eureka
  • Exeter
  • Folsom
  • Fortuna
  • Fresno
  • Gilroy
  • Glendale
  • Grass Valley
  • Hayward
  • Huntington Beach
  • Indian Wells
  • Industry
  • Inglewood
  • Irvine
  • Irwindale
  • King City
  • Kingsburg
  • Lancaster
  • La Quinta
  • Lemoore
  • Lindsay
  • Loma Linda
  • Long Beach
  • Los Alamitos
  • Los Angeles
  • Marina
  • Marysville
  • Merced
  • Modesto
  • Monterey
  • Mountain View
  • Napa
  • Needles
  • Newport Beach
  • Norco
  • Oakland
  • Oceanside
  • Oroville
  • Pacific Grove
  • Palm Desert
  • Palm Springs
  • Palmdale
  • Palo Alto
  • Pasadena
  • Petaluma
  • Piedmont
  • Placentia
  • Pomona
  • Port Hueneme
  • Porterville
  • Rancho Mirage
  • Redondo Beach
  • Redwood City
  • Richmond
  • Riverside
  • Roseville
  • Sacramento
  • Salinas
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • San Leandro
  • San Luis Obispo
  • San Marcos
  • San Mateo
  • San Rafael
  • San Ramon
  • Sand City
  • Santa Ana
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Clara
  • Santa Cruz
  • Santa Maria
  • Santa Monica
  • Santa Rosa
  • Santee
  • Seal Beach
  • Shafter
  • Signal Hill
  • Solvang
  • Stockton
  • Sunnyvale
  • Temple City
  • Torrance
  • Truckee
  • Tulare
  • Vallejo
  • Ventura
  • Vernon
  • Victorville
  • Visalia
  • Vista
  • Watsonville
  • Whittier
  • Woodlake

7 thoughts on “Petaluma’s Charter–A Little Civics Lesson

  1. Absolutely fantastic, Frank. That rare streak of optimism was remarkable to behold. A most informative post full of sensible perspective by our Petaluma Spectator, today. Watch out, you might be invited to stand for council

  2. So this is what has been keeping you off the streets lately. Good work! I agree with you. Any charter or contract should be reviewed every so many years and brought up to date if needed. It should be a workable document Let’s hope they see this and take your advice.

  3. Great work Frank!
    Perhaps too, in the future, anyone taking an oath of office in our fair city the words (to some effect) “And I will abide by the City Charter” should be added to the oath. Just a thought.

  4. Thanks for your kind words, Frank. Always a pleasure to see you. As an aside, Zoomer, everyone taking an oath of office already swears to “support and defend and bear true faith and allegiance to the Charter of the City of Petaluma.”

  5. Frank, Once again you’ve done our citizens a great service. And, I hope your optimism is infectious in spite of the Dr’s pill. Glad we have you watching over our town.

  6. Pingback: Petaluma’s Founding Documents…Decomposing in the Basement | The Petaluma Spectator

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