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Commentary: Charter was composed in haste

October 01, 2012|By Geoff West

Not unexpectedly in a campaign season, the Forum page of this fine newspaper is packed with self-serving rhetoric from politicians on both sides of issues. That's the way it is supposed to work. Well, I'm not running for anything, but I am very concerned about the potential impact of Measure V, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's Charter, on the city I've called my home for almost four decades.

I call it "Jim Righeimer's Charter" because that is exactly what it is. At the end of last year, Righeimer asked the city attorney, Tom Duarte, to research and return to the City Council what it would take to place a charter proposal on the June ballot. At the next council meeting, Righeimer presented a short, nine-page document that he created by cutting and pasting from other charters throughout the state.

Converting Costa Mesa from a general law city, with all the protections provided to it as such by state law, to a charter city is the second-most important municipal decision the voters will have made — the first being the original decision to incorporate back in 1953.

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Because of the gravity of this decision, it should not be rushed into without significant input from the community, yet that is exactly what happened. Righeimer tried to force this decision onto the June ballot when many fewer voters actually cast votes. Only a fortuitous mistake — a clerical error (some say it was divine intervention) — kept it off that ballot and provided time for the council to re-consider this document.

Twice, the council majority went through the charade of inviting public participation — once before the primary election and again following it. The first time around, the timeline was so tight that no organized opposition to Jim Righeimer's Charter could be mustered. At the time, individual residents presented more than 200 suggestions for modification to the document, and with almost no exception, those suggestions were rejected out of hand.

Well, I have studied Jim Righeimer's Charter. It is a hastily prepared, self-serving document without sufficient safeguards to prevent abuse and corruption.

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