Nevada County Charter

We the People Charter Nevada CountyResilience – an interesting word that we’re hearing more and more applied to our economies, our cultures, and our lives.

The dictionary defines resilience as: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens; the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. In other words, the ability to not just survive, but to resist and recover from challenges.

It’s not as if we in Nevada County – as individuals, families and communities – are not experiencing challenges, if not outright assaults, from many directions:

  • A government that spies on us
  • Banks that steal our homes and savings
  • Corporations the destroy our environment and pollute our waters
  • An economic system that seems to only serve the wealthy
  • An education system that fails our children and leaves them starting life with massive debt
  • A changing environment causing more extreme weather, drought and increased wildfire danger
  • Deteriorating infrastructure and lack of funds to address it

and these are  just some of our challenges…

The citizens of Nevada County can be resilient – resist, recover from and thrive in spite of these challenges – by taking local control wherever possible.</>

Making Nevada County a charter county expands our local control!

What is a charter County? The California Constitution recognizes two types of counties: general law counties and charter counties. General law counties adhere to state law, while charter counties have a limited degree of “home rule” authority. A charter is the document that spells out the powers, duties and structures of government and the rights of citizens. It is an exercise of inalienable rights defined under the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution to “…enact laws not expressly delegated to the federal government…” and also by Article 11 of California’s Constitution. It is often compared to constitutions at the local level.

There are currently 14 charter counties (out of 58) and 93 charter cities in California. Grass Valley and Truckee are charter cities. San Francisco is both a charter city and county.

What does it mean to be a charter county and have a limited degree of home rule authority? In general, it means that the County can govern itself differently from what is specified by state law to insure governance pertinent to local citizen’s needs.

Article 11, section 4 of the California Constitution addresses what a charter county may do as follows (in part, for full text, click here):

3(a) For its own government, a county or city may adopt a charter…The provisions of a charter are the law of the State and have the force and effect of legislative enactments… 4(g) Whenever any county has framed and adopted a charter, (b)…the general laws adopted by [the State], shall, as to such county, be superseded by said charter… (h)…[and] shall have all the powers that are provided by this Constitution or by statute for counties.

In order for the charter county to take advantage of its home rule authority, that authority must either be specified directly by the charter or the charter must specifically assign that authority to the county officials whose duties and responsibilities it defines.

For example, charter counties can have more than five seats on their Board of Supervisors (BOS) and can specify a process for filling a vacancy rather than a replacement be appointed by the governor.

Regardless of your political and social perspectives and regardless of whether you call it self-governance, home rule, independence or any other term, a Nevada County charter is a crucial element for achieving those objectives.

The initial impetus to make Nevada County a charter County is that certain provisions of the California Constitution make it necessary to be a charter County in order to establish a public bank. A public bank for Nevada County would give the County much greater control over its economy and the economic welfare of its citizens with less risk than being dependent on Wall St. banking practices (click here to learn about public banks).

The proposed charter will include a provision for the establishment of a Nevada County public bank. As required by the California state Constitution, the charter will also define the governance of Nevada County, its officials, their duties and responsibilities, how they are selected and how they are replaced when vacancies occur.

However, additional elements of interest to our citizens could also be included, such as:  a Citizens Bill of Rights, changes to our voting system and campaign-finance.

Whether or not such elements are included in the initial Charter, by chartering Nevada County, the Board of Supervisors will have significantly more discretion in the future to meet the governing desires of our citizens.

If the following process to establish the charter is used, there could effectively be almost no cost.

How do you become a charter county? There are three options:

  1. A Charter is introduced directly by Board of Supervisors and is then put on the ballot at next election (a charter must get 51% of vote in favor)
  2. A ballot initiative to form a Charter Commission is put on the ballot either by the BOS or by citizens collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to create a commission. A Charter Commission is a committee formed to draft the text of a charter. After the Charter Commission is drafted by the commission, it is then put on the ballot (must get 51% of vote)
  3. The Board of Supervisors can form a Charter Commission which then proposes a charter to be put on ballot (must get 51% of vote)

Once a County charter is in place, amendments to that charter can be made by citizens through a ballot initiative or by the BOS.

What method of becoming a charter county is proposed/preferred ? The Nevada County chapter of the Public Banking Institute, Economic Liberty for Main Street (ELMSt), suggests the first option. Rather than form a Charter Commission to draft a charter for the County, this website ( will be used to present alternative charter elements and wording. An online survey/poll will be conducted to determine the preferences of Nevada County citizens.

Descriptions of the intents and proposed text of each element of the charter can be found in the topic section of this website under the heading Nevada County Charter using subheadings for each of the proposed elements as well as the charter’s preamble.

The online survey/poll will allow voters to state whether they approve of the charter, as well as specific elements of the charter, such as the public bank, and which of any alternative texts they prefer. In addition, the poll will collect appropriate residence information so that it can be compared to Nevada County’s voters rolls to verify which “votes” are those of qualified voters. The Board of Supervisors can then use the results of this poll to select which elements to include in the charter and appropriate text.

Since a standard Charter Commission would only involve 15 people, we believe using this online method will allow more citizen input and be more transparent than what a commission could offer. By avoiding a Charter Commission, this method is also faster, more streamlined and less expensive since it will cut out at least one election cycle. It will also provide the Board of Supervisors with a compilation of our citizens preferences so that they can put a charter on the ballot that will be supported by a majority of the voters.

We strongly encourage every Nevada County citizen to use this website to educate themselves on the charter, public bank and other elements of the proposed charter and to then take the online survey, as the more citizens who participate in this process, the better the outcome in terms of local self-governance. Start Here

Links to other Charter pages:

How to establish a Nevada County Charter
Preamble to the Nevada County Charter
Preamble to Charter section establishing a public bank for Nevada County
The mission of the public Bank of Nevada County
The governance of the public Bank of Nevada County
The Citizens Bill of Rights
Nevada County Officers & Governance
Use of Instant Runoff Voting and establishing campaign finance limits
“Buy Local” preference for Nevada County purchases & contracts section

PDF of the full Nevada County Charter

Click here to be taken to the Nevada County Charter online survey page.