Sunnyvale City Council Chambers with all seven councilmembers sitting at their dais and city employees sitting in front
Sunnyvale will review the city's charter and look at whether to consider paying the mayor and councilmembers more, as well as changing the voting system. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Sunnyvale voters will have multiple opportunities to change the city charter in the coming years.

The Sunnyvale City Council voted unanimously earlier this month to create a committee to review the city’s charter and propose potential amendments by November 2026. Councilmembers approved six topics for the committee to review, including councilmember and mayoral compensation, alternative voting systems and parental, medical and military leave.

Councilmember Richard Mehlinger, who originally proposed reviewing the charter alongside Mayor Larry Klein and Councilmember Alysa Cisneros, said it’s healthy for cities to review their charters every few decades. Mehlinger said he wants the committee to conduct a general review and make other recommendations as the councilmembers see fit.

“I’m hoping that they will have identified … any points in the charter that don’t make sense anymore or (are) getting in the way of smooth operations of the city,” Mehlinger told San José Spotlight.

Mehlinger said it’s important for elected officials to represent the city’s populace, and that includes making it feasible for people from different backgrounds to hold any elected position.

The last time the city charter was generally reviewed was 2007, and Klein sat on that review committee. He said the committee decided not to move forward with ranked choice voting, but did not discuss compensation, which was reviewed separately in 2011.

Klein, whose only job is being mayor, said he’s essentially working full time for part-time pay.

“The mayor is a part-time position, but it’s how much of your personal time you devote,”  Klein told San José Spotlight. “That’s the main reason why the majority of people on council in the Bay Area are often real estate agents, they’re lawyers that are able to bill hourly and have more flexible time, or they’re retired.”

He said he looks forward to seeing what recommendations come from the committee. Each topic that the committee has been assigned is dense and needs time to research, he added, hence why the committee has been tasked with proposing amendments by 2026.

When Klein, Mehlinger and Cisneros initially proposed reviewing the city charter, they highlighted nine topics for review. Three of those topics are going to be on this year’s November ballot. Those topics include removing citizenship requirements from city boards and commissions, changing the number of council meetings from two every month to 24 throughout the year and making the charter’s language gender neutral.

Putting these minor charter amendments up for a vote will take things off of the commission’s plate in the future, Klein said.

“The things we’re proposing in November, I’ll say, are the low hanging fruit that don’t need a lot of discussion,” Klein told San José Spotlight. “Ultimately it’s good to just get those items out of the way and in front of voters and hopefully pass without a problem.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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