This article is to lay out a plan of how we can rein in our local municipalities. For too long many cities have gone rogue and gun shot over the people’s most basic and fundamental rights and liberties. For example there are numerous scenarios of how these local governmental entities are utilizing the practice known as eminent domain, for certain politician’s “pet” projects. The city code within many cities has inflated to a point; where the citizens are penalized merely for a parked car or yards not kept in the precise manner that government wants. No matter what the story per scenario may or may not be. While blindly following a convoluted mess of ordinances upon ordinances and upon ordinances.
There are numerous reports of the police shooting family pets, throwing flash grenades in baby’s cribs, and yes even abusing the citizens on their own property. The citizens lack authority to build a simple wood shack, build an addition to their homes, or put up a fence without first getting permission from the city. Many municipalities love to tax and spend in the cover of darkness, by using their local utility bills. Many continue to levy tax upon tax upon the individual’s property tax bill, to cover their out of control spending. All of which is prophetically warned by the Father of the Constitution James Madison in his article titled “Property Rights” on March 29th of 1792 which reads.
“Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.”
In other articles and writings I have demonstrated previously that one has a God given right to own and to be safe with in one’s own property. With the unchecked powers by our own government and or local leaders, how then can we not only reign in, but assign a check upon these governmental entities? In the same article that James Madison wrote in March of 1792, elucidates us further:
“Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his.”
Here in Utah we have two forms of governance for municipalities. One is to establish the city as a corporation of the State, and the other way is too form a city charter. Here in Utah 99% of all cities are established as these city corporations, where they are controlled by the state legislature. The sole city that is not a corporation is Tooele City, whom has a city charter and is more independent from the State legislature. A lack of independence is one flaw in being established as a city corporation. Another flaw is that it opens the doors to tyrants to come into power with the mindset of revenue, and that the citizens do not have rights. Such is the case with the City of Provo where the city leadership praises the fact that the justice court generates an average of two million dollars a year, and the police department is used for revenue off the backs of the hard working citizens. An ugly revenue-generation cycle thus results from unchecked powers by our own government, and or local leaders. Thus we see the City of Provo has an average of 1500 property rights per year, all for revenue. The utility bill has been abused with this tax and that tax for different “pet projects” such as for “free internet” for every citizen, and most within cover of darkness. To top it off we have a power plant that is not run at all! The city buys the power from another source and repackages it, and sells it back to the citizens for a profit!
My point here is not to speak negatively and solely on the current facts, but to speak about viable solutions and to look towards a brighter future where everyone’s Liberty can be safeguarded! The solution I would like to speak on in this article is the idea of city charters. What is a city charter? The term charter is called by other names such as a constitution or a contract. It’s a Common Law solution. Similar to how the US Constitution was the solution for these States united. The Individual States also have charters themselves, and the individual counties and cities can be chartered as well.
If we look at the Noah-Webster’s 1828 dictionary on the words Common and Law we get these definitions:
Common: “Belonging equally to more than one, or to many indefinitely; as, life and sense are common to man and beast; the common privileges of citizens; the common wants of men.”
Law: A rule, particularly an established or permanent rule, prescribed by the supreme power of a state to its subjects, for regulating their actions, particularly their social actions. Laws are imperative or mandatory, commanding what shall be done; prohibitory, restraining from what is to be forborn; or permissive, declaring what may be done without incurring a penalty. The laws which enjoin the duties of piety and morality are prescribed by God and found in the Scriptures.
Common Law is a general Law that is developed in a representative government in order to protect the Liberties of all that live within that society. It is a Law to restrict what a government can and cannot do. The Magna Carta was designed to restrict King John’s power, and to protect certain undeniable rights that all Englishmen had at that time. The English Bill of Rights was designed to help keep the British Colonies together and once again restrict what the King could and could not do. After the separation from the King of England, the founders set out to draft the US Constitution (which we still have to this day) in order to protect the Liberty of all US Citizens, and to be a standard for all Freemen. The people from the individual states not only elected their local leaders, but created their own state constitutions and republican forms of governance. In order to protect the Liberty of all that resided with in the individual states. It was the states that appointed delegates to create a contract (US Constitution) in order to bind the Union together and to create a national governmental branch that was limited in its roles, scope and size. You can see that it was the people that established these forms of Contract Law for the protection of all individuals. So that there could be equal protection under the Law, and common consent of all to live under that said Law (Common Law).
In our Common Law system of governance the states constitutions must coincide with the federal constitution, and the city and county constitutions to coincide with state and federal constitutions. If we read in Article Four Section Four of the US Constitution is reads.
“The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened) against domestic violence.”
Here with in the sovereign State of Utah, our state constitution reads this concerning city charters and how to become one in Article 11 Section 5.
“The Legislature may not create cities or towns by special laws.
“The Legislature by statute shall provide for the incorporation, organization, and dissolution of cities and towns and for their classification in proportion to population. Any incorporated city or town may frame and adopt a charter for its own government in the following manner:”
“The legislative authority of the city may, by two-thirds vote of its members, and upon petition of qualified electors to the number of fifteen per cent of all votes cast at the next preceding election for the office of the mayor, shall forthwith provide by ordinance for the submission to the electors of the question: “Shall a commission be chosen to frame a charter?” The ordinance shall require that the question be submitted to the electors at the next regular municipal election. The ballot containing such ++6question shall also contain the names of candidates for members of the proposed commission, but without party designation. Such candidates shall be nominated in the same manner as required by law for nomination of city officers. If a majority of the electors voting on the question of choosing a commission shall vote in the affirmative, then the fifteen candidates receiving a majority of the votes cast at such election, shall constitute the charter commission, and shall proceed to frame a charter.
Any charter so framed shall be submitted to the qualified electors of the city at an election to be held at a time to be determined by the charter commission, which shall be not less than sixty days subsequent to its completion and distribution among the electors and not more than one year from such date. Alternative provisions may also be submitted to be voted upon separately. The commission shall make provisions for the distribution of copies of the proposed charter and of any alternative provisions to the qualified electors of the city, not less than sixty days before the election at which it is voted upon. Such proposed charter and such alternative provisions as are approved by a majority of the electors voting thereon, shall become an organic law of such city at such time as may be fixed therein, and shall supersede any existing charter and all laws affecting the organization and government of such city which are now in conflict therewith. Within thirty days after its approval a copy of such charter as adopted, certified by the mayor and city recorder and authenticated by the seal of such city, shall be made in duplicate and deposited, one in the office of the secretary of State and the other in the office of the city recorder, and thereafter all courts shall take judicial notice of such charter.
Amendments to any such charter may be framed and submitted by a charter commission in the same manner as provided for making of charters, or may be proposed by the legislative authority of the city upon a two-thirds vote thereof, or by petition of qualified electors to a number equal to fifteen per cent of the total votes cast for mayor on the next preceding election, and any such amendment may be submitted at the next regular municipal election, and having been approved by the majority of the electors voting thereon, shall become part of the charter at the time fixed in such amendment and shall be certified and filed as provided in case of charters.
Each city forming its charter under this section shall have, and is hereby granted, the authority to exercise all powers relating to municipal affairs, and to adopt and enforce within its limits, local police, sanitary and similar regulations not in conflict with the general law, and no enumeration of powers in this constitution or any law shall be deemed to limit or restrict the general grant of authority hereby conferred; but this grant of authority shall not include the power to regulate public utilities, not municipally owned, if any such regulation of public utilities is provided for by general law, nor be deemed to limit or restrict the power of the Legislature in matters relating to State affairs, to enact general laws applicable alike to all cities of the State.”
Here in Provo, I first received the idea of a city charter during my first mayoral election, and while reading and studying up on the city charter that Nauvoo, Illinois, had during the early nineteenth century along with the protections that it granted to the citizens. It dawned on me how to fix Provo, and the solution was to establish a charter in order to restrict what the city could and could not do. For the protection of all who currently resides in, and all that would move into the city’s boundaries. Below is my vision for a system of governance that not only would restrict what the city could and could not do; but that would also involve a greater percentage of citizen involvement with in the city. Of course my vision is only my vision, and there would be fourteen others that would be drafting this governing document for the city as well as the citizens voting upon the document.
My Vision for the City of Provo’s Constitution
As what has been said before a city constitution must coincide with the federal constitution as well as the state’s. With this being said my vision is to draft this Law after the manner of the US Constitution. I feel this way, because it was God that granted us the US Constitution, and since it has survived nearly 240 years, and since it promotes and preserves freedoms to all citizens; such an excellent role model to develop our Law with!
After I get done with all of the articles, which describes how the city is to be ran. I plan to add a Bill of Rights to this charter as well, in order to fully protect the citizens of Provo and their individual rights. Not just have a Bill of Rights, but what if we further describe what those certain God given rights are, and address certain provisions in protecting those rights. A similar idea to this fact would be the Nauvoo City Charter back in the early nineteenth century when they addressed religious liberty, and the protection of that liberty. I not only would like to the same thing, but I also would like to go a step further and protect the individual’s property rights.
Article 1 Representation
In order to gain the citizen involvement with in city business, I envision for the city to adopt a lower council and an upper council (after the manner of the US Congress). The lower council to be consisted of 12 seats all being elected by the people and each district being apportioned by population, making it easier for the simple man or woman to run for office, and to represent their constituencies.
The Upper Council to represent six specific regions of the city. Where we could have the individual neighborhood chairs and vice chairs with in those regions elect the representation with in the upper council, in order to represent the neighborhoods as a whole, or replace those upper house of representatives at any time if they fail to represent the individual neighborhoods (term limits).
Checks, Balances, Duties
The lower council’s sole duties are too make the laws for the governing the city. Those laws must also coincide with either the federal, state, or city charters. They will have the sole responsibility of the purse (city’s finances). They would also be in charge of the taxation and the revenue of the city with a simple majority.
The upper house would have the power to confirm or deny the mayoral appointments. They would also have the power to check the lower council’s laws to either confirm that those laws that the lower house is attempting to pass are constitutional and that they are financially sound. Or reject certain proposed laws due to unconstitutionality of such laws, or due to fact that they simply cost too much. They would also be a check against excessive taxation with in the city, and or approve of certain necessary taxation with a simple majority.
If the executive of the city vetoes any legislative action, then by 3/4ths vote both councils can override any such veto and pass the law, budget, or tax in question. In times of impeachment of the executive, with a 3/4ths vote the lower council may choose to impeach the mayor, and choose the prosecutor in order to pursue such impeachment charges (executive privilege shall not block this process). Then the upper house would at that point act as the judge and try the case of impeachment. The only punishment that the upper council can issue upon impeachment is to remove the said mayor. This same process should also be able to be used for the city marshal, treasurer, and auditor.
In case of unjust termination of city employees or the need to terminate certain city employees, there needs to be added an appeal process for which the employee in question may appeal to the upper council for a chance to undo their unjust termination from the city, with 2/3rds vote. In cases of city employees that needs to be terminated from the city. The upper council may override the mayor’s authority by 2/3rds vote to terminate the employee in question. This method also needs to pass the lower counsel by 2/3rds vote. This process shall only be used in times of questionable favoritism, and or nepotism.
Article 2 Executive Branch
The mayor’s sole duties would include the power of the veto pin, and pardon pen; micro-managing the individual city departments; enforcing the laws of the city; and providing a City of City address to the city. (The police and fire departments are exempt from this micro-management)
The power of the veto pin is self-explanatory. He would be another check against the counsel if they pass a law, tax, or unbalanced budget. He would also be the one that must sign a new law, tax or budget into law. If the courts wrongfully convict a person or fines a person; then the mayor has the authority to pardon such persons over such wrongful punishments, fines, or judgements.
The Mayor much like the City Auditor and the Treasurer would be elected by the electoral college of the city. The Electoral College would consist of all the votes from the individual neighborhood chairs and vice chairs. The Deputy Mayor would be the person that comes in second for the office of mayor, and act as an advisor only to the Mayor.
The duties of the City Auditor are to audit every branch and department of the city, and give his results to the lower and upper city council. The duties of City Treasurer are to keep track of the cities expenses, and payables, and to issue payments. They are also mandated to report to the lower and upper counsel of the city. The treasurer must also act accordingly with the US Constitution and the State’s Sound Money Act, regarding the payment of fees, taxes, and services; allowing the citizens the options to pay their fees, taxes, and services with gold and silver tender.
The City Marshal of the city is to work with the elected sheriff of the county. He is to make sure that his police department is striving to serve the general welfare of the city, by enforcing the laws of the city. Also to make sure that all citizens are safe from all possible dangers, and that the citizen’s liberties are ultimately protected. He is to work independently with the Mayor, the Counsel, and for the court. The fire marshal is also to be elected by the people and to work with and report to the mayor, the counsel, the police marshal and the county fire marshal and county sheriff, as well as the courts.
Article 3 Judicial Branch
The Judicial branch will consist of a judge or judges appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the upper counsel of the city. Their sole duty is to administer justice to the convicted, and to write the final opinion on laws in question. They are to use the strict meaning of the federal, state, and city constitutions as the basis to deem an act of other city departments or branches as legal or unconstitutional. They are not to interpret either the federal, state, or city constitutions. If there is a time that arises where the judge needs to step down and they are not doing so voluntary no matter what the concern may or may not be. It is up to the upper counsel to remove that judge with a 3/4ths vote. The Judicial branch will also use a grand jury of 12 citizens whose sole responsibility is to decide the fate of a person on trial, guilty or not guilty. These twelve citizens shall not have any restrictions as to who can or cannot serve, unless they are under the age of 18 or a convicted felon. They shall be members from the community at large, picked at random. On matters of corruption within government it is up the grand jury to use all the facts to issue a statement of charges. Then at that point the sitting judge shall issue a bench warrant for either the city marshal or the county sheriff to pick up the public official in question.
Article 4 Amendment Process
In times when this Law needs to be amended, it shall require 3/4ths of both counsels upper and lower to offer up amendments to this city constitution, and 3/4ths of the total number of electorate to vote for such proposed constitutional amendments within the next election cycle. Upon passage of such constitutional amendments, the new constitutional amendments shall take effect two years after the votes take place to amend the city constitution; for the purposes of codifying such changes.
Article 5 Individual Neighborhood Elections and Governing Processes.
Every two years with in the individual city neighborhoods with, and in the month of February. There shall be an election for the next chair and vice chair. For the sole purposes of convening neighborhood meetings/discussions; participating with in electoral process in selecting the city mayor and deputy mayor, and electing and un-electing upper council members.
During the convening of the neighborhood meetings, the neighborhood chairs or vice chairs must invite the specific upper council members to speak to the neighborhoods, and to answer any if not all questions and or concerns for the neighborhood at large. The chairs and vice chairs must choose to invite candidates for the upper counsel for the same purposes. The chairs and vice chairs must stay politically neutral, and cannot endorse any particular candidate for any office. The Lower Counsel shall set forth the dates, times, and locations for such elections of neighborhood chairs and vice chairs. As well as set the rules as to whom may be comprised to count the ballots when electing the chairs and vice chairs. The committees when counting the ballots for the chairs and vice chairs must be comprised of citizens from the said neighborhood that the election is being taken place within, and that the committee comprised of in order to count the ballots shall be consisted of 12 citizens.
Every four years during the mayoral elections. The individual neighborhood chairs and vice chairs shall meet in one central location in order to cast their individual ballots for the office of mayor, auditor and treasurer. This location shall be set by the lower council. The person that gains the most votes in anyone of these three offices Mayor, Auditor and Treasurer; shall be announced as the winner of the said race. In the race for City Mayor, the first runner up (second place) shall be the deputy mayor. Upon any ties for any of these three said offices. The delegates must then go into a second and third round of voting until the winner is then chosen. If after the three rounds of voting, no winner is chosen. Then the city must look towards the popular vote to decide the said race in question.
Provo City’s Bill of rights
1. Religious Liberty
Provo City Council shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Provo City Council may create law in order to enforce this provision.
The very definition of religious liberty shall include one’s freedom of conscience. One’s right to worship whatever faith he or she chooses to worship.
2. The Right to Bear Arms
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Provo City Council may create law in order to enforce this provision.
The elected city marshal may hire such militia comprising of well-trained citizens with in the police department. The city marshal may hold trainings to teach proper gun safety and usage of such arms. The right to bear arms shall be applied to any tool that the citizen chooses to protect his or her own home, family, and well-being of their communities.
3. Property Rights
All governmental officials shall fully respect ones individual right to property, papers, and effects.
Government may choose to purchase at equal market values any property for necessary projects only. The citizens have full right to reject such offers to sell their property.
The city shall not impose any tax, fee, or penalty upon ones said property. Nor set or impose any unnecessary regulation upon ones said property.
Citizens in this provision are defined as legal residents currently living within the Provo City limits.
Provo City Council may create legislation in order to fully enforce this provision.
4. Innocent Until Proven Guilty
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No knock warrants are not to be considered as valid warrants. All said warrants must respect amendment 3 of this city constitution.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury. Nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. The assistance of counsel shall be anyone whom is familiar with the law.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Provo City courts shall accept all Writs of Habeas Corpus.
5. Rights of the Citizens
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.