Not according to critics of the charter system, which is used in 121 of the state's 482 cities. Rather than operate under general guidelines established by the state, these cities can set their own rules when it comes to negotiating contracts and setting salaries. Of course, having more flexibility can turn out to be too much of a good thing. From the WSJ:
Charter cities are exempt from state laws that mandate salary limits for elected officials. These cities also were free during good times to include generous pay and staffing agreements in their charters for workers that can be difficult to alter quickly during financial duress. Perhaps the most infamous example is Bell, a tiny, working-class city outside Los Angeles. It gained notoriety in 2010 when it was revealed that it paid its city manager $800,000 a year, and some City Council members $100,000 a year. As a charter city, its officials didn't face state salary limits.
From KPCC's Matt DeBord:
The big picture shows that the bankruptcy train in California is running right through these charter cities, a development that's consistent with what economist John Husing told me last week, in a discussion about San Bernardino's fiscal nightmare. He explained that if a city is old, maintains its own police and fire departments, and saw substantial growth in its housing market in the past decade, it's a good candidate for fiscal problems. That's because property tax revenues tanked just as public safety costs, especially pensions, escalated.
San Bernardino and Stockton are both charter cities, as is Vallejo, which recently came out of Chapter 9 protection. It's worth nothing that LA and SF are also charter cities - and not about to go bankrupt. From the Journal:
Charter supporters say charters can give cities greater flexibility in cutting costs. This month, the California Supreme Court ruled that charter cities are exempt from paying prevailing union rates to contractors for municipal projects that are funded with local tax dollars. "When you give a city more control, it can go one of two ways," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School and a local-government expert. "One way is the leaders are very successful in running that city; the other way is, you get Bell, you get San Bernardino, you get Stockton."