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Commentary: Charter would allow 'virtual takeover' of C.M.

March 24, 2012|By Geoff West

Following a blitzkrieg assault on the governmental process, on March 6 the four-man super majority of the Costa Mesa City Council voted to place Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's Charter on the June 5 ballot.

This document, barely nine pages long, was cobbled together by Righeimer alone, apparently in a fit of pique because he's been unable to affect his misguided efforts to disembowel the municipal employee associations under the guise of budget and pension reform.

The process to create a charter typically takes much longer than a couple of months. Although state law allows a city council to create a charter, typically the document is carefully crafted by an elected citizen committee, which designs what amounts to a constitution for a city, taking into consideration the special circumstances facing the city.

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Instead of engaging in that kind of time-consuming, intellectually challenging and administratively appropriate exercise, Righeimer simply treated this process like a junior high school social studies project. He created a de facto scrapbook, by cutting and pasting a snippet from City No. 1, another from City No. 2 and yet another from City No. 3, and so on.

He said he wanted to use "tested language," yet much of the language in question has not been tested legally. In fact, a couple cities he "borrowed from" are in the midst of legal challenges right now because of language in their charters.

Righeimer has rushed this process so his charter can be placed on the June ballot, when fewer voters typically turn out and, in the case of this campaign season, will be heavily tilted to the Republican side because of the presidential primary and the local Assembly race.

He's a smart fellow, who understands the numbers of politics. He is, after all, a major political operative, having been Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's campaign manager, and is practically joined at the hip with Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh. He knows that submitting the charter question to the broader electorate in the November General Election significantly diminishes the chances of it passing.

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