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Costa Mesa council split on charter

Discussion is reminiscent of the heated fall campaign that lead to the defeat of Measure V.

April 23, 2013|By Bradley Zint

The talking points, debates and wounds of November were made fresh again at City Hall on Tuesday as the City Council explored new directions to create a city charter.

Following the general election's sound defeat of the contested document that would have instituted home rule for the city instead of the state's guidelines, a majority of the council members indicated a preference this time around for a committee to go about the charter creation effort.

The composition of that committee, as well as the process by which the council would appoint the group's members, faces further discussion and debate. The council is scheduled to receive more input from city staff before proceeding further during its May 7 regular meeting.

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But the various points made by the council members and residents regarding a charter for Costa Mesa were similar to the fall's civic dialogue during one of the city's most heated elections: Costa Mesa doesn't need a charter. It does need one. The last one was pushed through without community input. A charter will save the city money by giving it the tools to do so. A charter will hurt middle-class working families and lead to low-end laborers performing city contracts. Will the charter address the millions of pension liabilities? Will it give the council unbridled power? You can't trust Sacramento.

The funding by organized labor and the Republican Party, to defeat and support the measure, respectively, became points of contention as well.

Tuesday's council was split on the charter creation method, with Mayor Jim Righeimer, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger and Councilman Gary Monahan recommending a committee — also the chosen method of the city attorney's office, which favored it for expediency and cost-effectiveness.

Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece, however, favored a charter commission, whose 15 members would have to be directly elected by voters, during the June 2014 primary election at the soonest.

Both methods have city voters approving or disapproving a charter in the end.

"What do we want our city to look like?" Leece said. "Being a member of the minority, I want this process as we go forward to be very fair, and I believe that there are qualified people who have been long-time residents … who would bring value to a commission or a committee."

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