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Community Commentary: No need to rush a city charter

January 07, 2012|By Sandra Genis

Why the rush?

The Costa Mesa City Council has proven once again, when presented with the question, "Do you want it good, or do you want it fast?" that it will choose speed over sanity every time.

Now they're trying to jam through a city charter in time for a costly special election in June. Taking time to consider community input is obviously not important to these guys. As Councilman Eric Bever said at Tuesday's council meeting, "If you don't like what we're doing, tough luck."

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The council will hold a special meeting Tuesday regarding its proposal for a city charter, i.e. a new system of laws they've concocted to govern our city. This will be the biggest change in our city's history with consequences affecting every Costa Mesa resident, business and property owner for decades to come, stripping us of all the protections conferred by state law.

The meeting will be the only public hearing where we, the people of Costa Mesa, can tell the council what we want added to their charter proposal face-to-face, though the city is also accepting input from citizens at http://www.ci.costa-mesa.ca.us/charterForm.php.

The council unveiled the scheme in early December, as many residents were turning their attention to the holidays. Under the council's fast-track schedule, they want any suggestions for additions to their charter proposal to be submitted by Tuesday. Items already included can be deleted until the council endorses a final charter March 6, but city officials said nothing new should be added after Tuesday.

By contrast, when I served on the Orange County Charter Commission in 1995, we took nine months to produce a draft charter.

At first, we met monthly. We familiarized ourselves with legal provisions regarding local charters, including what a charter should include and which state laws would apply differently under a charter and how. Once we understood the full scope of issues to be addressed, we broke into four subcommittees charged with different aspects of the charter — and we realized that monthly meetings weren't enough.

All told, we met dozens of times at different locations around the county from Fullerton to Huntington Beach to Laguna Niguel and points in between and beyond. And after we were done, the Board of Supervisors held more hearings!

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