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Costa Mesa voters to consider city charter

The document would serve as the city's constitution, governing private contracts, employee agreements and the form of government.

October 05, 2012|By Bradley Zint

Costa Mesa's governance will shift toward increased local control should a majority of the city's voters approve a proposed charter in November's general election, advocates say.

The ballot's charter initiative, Measure V, attempts to change Costa Mesa from a general-law city under the purview of state guidelines to being home-ruled by a charter.

The major changes imposed by the charter, which would essentially serves as a city constitution, have been hotly defended and contested in the months since the document made the Nov. 6 ballot.

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The city had tried to bring the charter initiative before voters in the June election, but a missed deadline stymied the effort.

The 10-page document was not drafted through the collective decisions of a committee — much to the ire of charter critics, who claimed it was drafted in a rushed fashion without sufficient public input.

Proponents, however, led by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, Mayor Eric Bever, and councilmen Gary Monahan and Steve Mensinger, contend that the charter would allow residents to "have ultimate control over local affairs," according to their arguments on the ballot.

"Measure V will finally ensure Costa Mesa citizens obtain the local control they deserve and taxpayers receive the protections they need," Righeimer said in an email. "Beyond the typical cost savings provided by a city charter, Measure V will also provide an extra taxpayer safeguard by requiring voter approval for any increase in pension benefits for city employees."

Added Mensinger: "If the charter passes, everything changes."

Among those in opposition are Councilwoman Wendy Leece — often the lone dissenter of the five-member council — and Costa Mesans for Responsible Government (CM4RG). On its website, the grass-roots activist group claims implementation of the charter would foster an environment of cronyism in council leadership and provide minimal city savings.

The city charter "really reduces public control by allowing unlimited no-bid contracts and purchasing," said Robin Leffler, president of CM4RG. "It doesn't adopt any of the state law that would protect us against favoritism or fraud on that issue."

She said the document doesn't address the city's pension liability and that it contains a considerable amount of vague language with "lots of red flags for lawsuits."

"It doesn't really give us local control," Leffler said. "It reduces local control because all of the power is concentrated in the City Council."

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