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Commentary: Costa Mesa's charter process has confused residents

September 17, 2012|By Kare Hodge Grams

I am probably like a lot of Daily Pilot readers following the pro and con articles and letters regarding the proposed Costa Mesa city charter. Just reading the published information does little to help an average citizen figure out what is going on and exactly how it will affect our city.

I felt the same way when there was the hullabaloo about the Orange County Fairgrounds sale. I was grateful when a man who seems much more familiar with these procedures than I, Jim Righeimer, stepped up to provide public analysis and contest the sale. I also agreed with Righeimer's actions when he criticized the ridiculous placement of a DUI checkpoint on Harbor Boulevard during a weekday rush hour.

So when Righeimer ran for City Council, I liked his civic-mindedness and cast him my vote. Like many people, I imagine, I was quite surprised when, within his first year of office, he led the council to attempt to contract out city services and then came up with a city charter.

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Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall him running on these issues. I don't honestly know if I agree or disagree with him on either of them, but it sure looks to me like the present council didn't even want to give me a chance to decide.

Remember, this council worked very hard to get the charter on the June ballot, when a much smaller (and typically more conservative) percentage of residents vote. If it weren't for the bizarre fluke of a city employee filing papers late, all of the discussions and citizen input that have taken place the last few months would not have happened. It doesn't really look like they wanted us to think about it.

Do I think the union contracts are too generous? Yes, I do.

And do I think the retirement benefits fiscally unsustainable? Yes, again.

It's obvious the unions need to negotiate down. Their willingness to saddle future citizens with overly generous retirement benefits are definitely part of what brought us to this quagmire, but do I think this requires a new city charter?

Honestly, I don't know.

What I do know is that I sure don't approve of the way this charter was created — nor how the council attempted to negate my consideration by making it a done deal last June. It appears insincere at best and a power play at worst.

This council majority — well-meaning as it may be — has lost my trust. That is why no matter how many more public meetings, signs, four-color brochures or articles there are in the Daily Pilot before November, I will be voting no on Measure V.

KARE HODGE GRAMS lives in Costa Mesa.

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