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Commentary: Why does Costa Mesa need this charter?

March 30, 2012|By Jeffrey Harlan

Every council, since Costa Mesa's incorporation in 1953, has operated under the same governing rules as a general law city. Since our humble beginnings as Goat Hill to a nearly built-out city of 120,000 people, and in times of both economic uncertainty and prosperity, our representative policymakers have managed to govern our growing community with a suite of tools at their disposal. The general plan, zoning code and city budget are just a few of the instruments past councils have used to guide our growth and development. Moreover, city staff has been able to consistently deliver high quality services — building parks, maintaining roads, processing development applications, ensuring a safe, secure, and pleasing environment — without a charter.

Adopting a charter is not a light or simple decision; it deserves thoughtful consideration and should be justified by well-reasoned arguments.

If the charter ultimately appears on a ballot for my consideration, here's what I'd like the council majority and its proponents to tell me before I cast my vote: 1.) What critical tasks, specifically, are you unable to do now? And 2.) How will this charter make the difference? Until then, why change?

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JEFFREY HARLAN is an urban planner and resident of Eastside Costa Mesa.

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