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Falls City committee working on revising outdated charter

FALLS CITY — More than 100 years — 110 to be specific — is a long run for a city charter.

Falls City City Council

Falls City City Council

December 10, 2013

FALLS CITY — More than 100 years — 110 to be specific — is a long run for a city charter.

Perhaps too long for Falls City's outdated, and in some places confusing, 55-page version of the city's governing document.

Adopted in 1903 and revised or amended only a handful of times, the Falls City City Council may soon see fit to try to put it out to pasture.

A committee of city officials and citizens has been working since February to rewrite — or rather, replace — the charter. The committee decided the best course of action was to start from scratch, using a League of Oregon Cities model charter as a starting point, said Falls City mayor and committee chairwoman Amy Houghtaling.

"The current charter is very hard to read. It jumps all over the place and has a really confusing table of contents," Houghtaling said, explaining the reasoning behind starting fresh. "It was functional back then, but not now."

Among the many unique attributes of the current charter is that it enumerates council powers, meaning it only grants the council authority over things specifically listed in the charter. That has been restrictive, especially considering how much has changed since the charter was written.

But that isn't the only concern.

"Many sections of the charter contain outdated language, conflict with state election law, place unnecessary restrictions on the city council, and do not afford the council all powers afforded them under the general grant of powers, or better known as the 'Home Rule'- type of charter," wrote City Administrator Amber Mathiesen in a memo to the city council.

The council is slated to consider accepting a new version of the charter on Wednesday (today) at 7:30 p.m. at its regular meeting at the Falls City Community Center, barring any more inhospitable weather.

Adoption of a new charter requires a vote of citizens and, if the draft charter is accepted by the council, the charter revision committee's next step is to begin a public information campaign.

If the charter revision process goes according to plan, a new charter would be before voters in November 2014.