City of San Bernardino’s 1913 Charter Amendments: Raising the Debt Ceiling

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

After the people of San Bernardino adopted a charter in 1905 and  amended it in 1908, they amended it again in 1913.     The amendment concerns the bonded indebtedness  of the City of San Bernardino for public improvements.  Effectively, the qualified electors of 1913 raised the debt ceiling found in the 1905 Charter.  The 1905 Charter capped the City’s debt for public improvements at $350,000.  The 1913 amendment raised the ceiling to 15 percent  of the assessed value of the City’s real and personal property.   This particular section amendment is not mentioned in the 2005 annotated charter, but some of the concepts survived the 1956 amendment that exists today.  I am not sure if there were any amendments between 1913 and 1956 related to bonded indebtedness.  I have drafted a legislative version (with additions and strikeouts of the 1905 (as amended in 1908) Charter with the amendments to the Charter added by the 1913 election and approved by the California Legislature.

A special municipal election was held on April 18, 1913, and a majority of voters approved “Proposed charter amendment one.”  Below is a strikeout version I created comparing the 1905 version of section 133 with the changes in the 1913 version.

Section 133. Whenever the mayor and common council shall by ordinance or resolution, determine that the public interest or necessity demands the acquisition, construction, or completion of any municipal improvement, the cost of which would be too great to be paid out of the ordinary annual income and revenue of the city, they are hereby given the power and authority to call a special election and submit to the qualified voters of the city the proposition of incurring indebtedness to pay the cost of such improvement set forth in said ordinance or resolution. If said proposition be accepted by a two-thirds vote of the qualified electors voting at such election, the mayor and common council may issue and dispose of bonds of said city in evidence of said indebtedness.; provided that such indebtedness, together with the unpaid and outstanding bonded indebtedness actually existing at the time such proposition is submitted to said voters, shall not exceed three hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  But the city or municipal corporation of San Bernardino shall not incur any indebtedness for public improvements which shall in the aggregate exceed fifteen (15) per cent of the assessed value of all the real and personal property of said city or municipal corporation.  In all other respects not herein provided for, the procedure for calling and holding such elections and the issuance of bonds shall be governed by general law of the State of California applicable to cities of the fifth class.

The section was amended in 1956.  Here is the current (2005 Charter) version:

Section 133. Indebtedness for Municipal Improvement. General obligation bonded indebtedness of the City for any purpose for which the City is
authorized to provide or for carrying out any of the powers possessed by the City may be incurred in the manner provided by the general laws of the State of
California at the time such proceedings are taken. The City shall not incur any indebtedness evidenced by general obligation bonds which shall in the aggregate
exceed fifteen percent (15%) of the total assessed value for purposes of City taxation of all the taxable real and personal property in the City. The City shall not
incur any bonded indebtedness constituting a general obligation of the City unless such indebtedness is authorized by the affirmative votes of not less than two-thirds
(2/3) of those electors voting on the question of incurring such indebtedness at any election at which such question is submitted to the electors of the City.
Notwithstanding any other provision or limit in this Charter, bonds of the City payable solely from the revenues of any revenue-producing improvement, building,
system, plant works, facilities or undertaking used for or useful in (a) the producing, obtaining, conserving, treating, storing, transmitting, distributing and supplying of
water for domestic use, irrigation, sanitation, industrial use, fire protection, recreation or any other public or private use, and (b) the collection, treatment or
disposal of sewage, garbage, refuse waste or storm water, including drainage, may be authorized and issued in the manner provided by the general laws of the State
of California at the time such proceedings are taken. The issuance of such revenue bonds must be authorized by the affirmative votes of a majority of the electors
voting upon the proposition of their issuance at any election at which such question is submitted to the electors of the City.

When two or more questions or propositions for the incurring of general obligation bonded debt or for the issuance of revenue bonds are submitted at the same election to the votes cast for and against each question or proposition shall be counted separately.

The preamble of the charter amendment sent to the Legislature is interesting in that it gives some procedural history.  The Legislature had to approve the Charter pursuant to the California Constitution then in effect.  In 1913, the Charter could not be changed more than every two years.  The procedure for publishing also was different than in 1908 (including a switch of newspapers). The City Clerk also refers to himself as the clerk of the Mayor and Common Council, even though that’s one of the duties of the Clerk in the Charter. Here is the preamble from Assembly Concurring Resolution No. 32, May 6, 1913:

PREAMBLE

            Be it known that,

Whereas, The city of San Bernardino, of the county of San Bernardino, State of California, has at all times mentioned herein been and now is a municipal corporation of said State of California, containing a population of more than thirty five hundred (3,500) inhabitants, and has been ever since the 8th day of February, 1905, organized and existing and acting under a freeholders’ charter adopted under and by virtue of Section 8, Article XI of the Constitution of the State of California, which charter was duly ratified by the qualified electors of said city at an election held for that purpose on the 6th day of January, 1905, and approved by the legislature of the State of California, on the 8th day of February, 1905 (Stats. 1905, page 940, et seq.); and

Whereas, the mayor and common council of the city of San Bernardino did by resolution designated as “Resolution No. 593” adopted by said mayor and common council on the 17th day of March, 1913, and approved by the mayor of said city on the 17th day of March, 1913, and pursuant to section 8 of article XI of the Constitution of the State of California, duly propose to the qualified electors of said city of San Bernardino a certain amendment, hereinafter set forth, to the charter of said city to be submitted to said qualified electors at a special municipal election to be held in said city on the 18th day of April, 1913; and,

Whereas, said resolution and said certain proposed amendment hereinafter set forth was published for ten (10) times in a daily newspaper, printed and published in said city and of general circulation therein, to wit: in the San Bernardino Daily Sun, said publication ending on the 28th day of March, 1913; and

Whereas, Thereafter the mayor and common council of said city did by an ordinance designated “Ordinance No. 516” which was duly passed and adopted on the 17th day of March, 1913, and approved by the mayor of said city on said last mentioned date, call and order the holding of a special election in the city of San Bernardino on the 18th day of April, 1913, which said last mentioned date was at least twenty (20) days and not more than forty (40) days after the completion of the publication of such resolution and proposed amendment to said charter for ten (10) times in said San Bernardino Daily Sun, a daily newspaper of general circulation, printed, published and circulated in said city, and which said ordinance calling such special election specified and ordered and ordained that said proposed amendment be submitted to the qualified electors of said city at said special election for ratification or rejection, and designated the time of such election and established election precincts, and designated the polling places therein, and the names of the election officers for each such precinct, and which said ordinance was published five (5) times in said San Bernardino Daily Sun, the last date of such publication being on the 23d day of March, 1913, and which said ordinance was approved by the mayor of said city on the 17th day of March, 1913; and

Whereas, said amendment was duly submitted to the qualified electors of said city of San Bernardino at said special election held on said 18th day of April, 1913, which said special election was held not less than twenty (20) days nor more than forty (40) days after the completion of the publication of such proposal for ten (10) times in said daily newspaper; and

Whereas, In and by said ordinance and said resolution so passed, approved and published as aforesaid, said proposed amendment was submitted to the qualified electors of said city at said special municipal election; and

Whereas, On the 21st day of April, 1913, at a meeting of said mayor and common council of said city of San Bernardino, duly convened in accordance with law and with the provisions of said charter of said city, said mayor and common council of said city of San Bernardino did duly and regularly  canvass the returns of said special municipal election so held on the 18th day of April, 1913, and did find thereupon that said special proposed amendment to said charter, hereinafter particularly set forth was duly ratified by the electors voting thereon; and,

Whereas, Said mayor and common council after canvassing said returns and at said meeting so held as aforesaid, after said canvass, did duly find and declare that said proposed amendment had been ratified and adopted by the majority of the electors voting thereon; and

Whereas, said amendment so ratified by the electors of said city of San Bernardino at said special municipal election held on the said 18th day of April, 1913, is now submitted to the legislature of the State of California for approval or rejection, as a whole, without power of alteration or amendment, in accordance with the provision of Section 8 of Article XI of the Constitution of the State of California; and

Whereas, No other proposed amendment to said charter had been submitted to the electors of said city of San Bernardino within two (2) years immediately prior to said 18th day of April, 1913;

Now, therefore the undersigned, J. S. Bright, the mayor and chief executive of the city of San Bernardino, and S. G. Batchelor, city clerk and clerk of the mayor and common council of said city, authenticating their signatures with the official seal of said city, do hereby certify, that said amendment to said charter of said city so ratified by the majority of the electors, voting thereon at said special municipal election, held on the 18th day of April, 1913, as submitted to said electors in the words and figures as follows, and is and shall, if so approved by said legislature, be in the words and figures following, to wit:”

The Charter of the City of San Bernardino, as amended in 1913, was not amended again until 1919.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104,
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055
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About Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law
Michael Reiter is a Redlands, California-based lawyer, serving San Bernardino County and Riverside County in Southern California's Inland Empire. Michael Reiter is a lawyer practicing in the following fields of law: Municipal Law, Code Enforcement Law, Small Business Law and Real Estate Law. Michael Reiter practices in all the local courts, including San Bernardino Superior Court, Riverside Superior Court, and the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Michael Reiter was admitted to the California State Bar in 1998. Michael Reiter was Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, and Staff Attorney for Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino. Michael Reiter serves all of San Bernardino and Riverside County, Orange County, and Los Angeles County. Michael Reiter can be reached at (909) 296-6708, or by electronic mail at michael@michaelreiterlaw.com. 300 E. State St. #517 Redlands CA 92373-5235

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