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Commentary: COIN doesn't solve transparency problem

September 07, 2012|By Greg Ridge | By Greg Ridge

The Costa Mesa City Council proved to me once again why they can't be trusted.

Faced with an opportunity Tuesday night to adopt meaningful reforms that would shine a light on how lobbyists, private contractors and labor unions alike can influence politicians on the council, they chose to advance their own political agenda instead, leaving residents in the dark. It's time we took transparency to a real level.

Once again, the council rejected reforms that would result in true transparency. What the council did adopt was a so-called Civic Openness in Negotiations (COIN) ordinance, one councilman's attempt to create a political platform for his current candidacy. But the message they sent was loud and clear: The council majority does not want you, the taxpayer who foots the bill, to know how lobbyists, campaign contributors and private contractors influence the decisions the council makes about your community.

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Councilman Steve Mensinger claims his COIN ordinance will bring transparency to City Hall. But COIN is not what it seems. In reality, it targets only a single group — city employees — and fails to focus any attention at all on those interests that are most susceptible to abuse by the politicians on the council.

Under COIN, the politicians won't have to tell the public which lobbyists and campaign contributors attempt to influence council decisions on expensive contracts.

Under COIN, the politicians who make up the council majority will never have to tell the public who helped them write their charter scheme behind closed doors, or who encouraged them to refuse repeated requests from the community to have a seat at the table and to hold more meetings to ensure that the charter would be crafted through a deliberative process.

Under COIN, when Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer votes to approve a contract with a street sweeping company, he still won't have to tell the public that he accepted campaign contributions from that company before he casts his vote.

Under COIN, nobody will know how the law firm Jones Day got a $495 per hour, no-bid contract to provide unlimited legal services.

Under COIN, the politicians will never have to tell the public who they talked with before hiring a $3,000-a-week public relations spokesman, without going out to bid.

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