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Deja vu in new charter debate

Those for and against Costa Mesa's failed 2012 Measure V haven't changed their minds.

April 23, 2014|By Bradley Zint

During an often-tense public hearing Tuesday night, one reminiscent of the contentious 2012 election season that included its own charter debate, the battle lines for and against another proposed charter for Costa Mesa materialized.

On one end were supporters of the constitution-like document, contending that it will save taxpayers millions, institute more-reliable home rule than what Sacramento provides and, by and large, keep many good city policies intact.

"It's not rocket science," said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger. "It's local control."

Others cried foul on the renewed attempt to bring a charter before voters, saying the 60% "no" vote in 2012 should have demonstrated the will of the people.

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"I still haven't been told what we need a charter for, with specific answers and specific numbers," said former Councilman Jay Humphrey, who's running for the dais in November.

Opponents argued that the charter is a "power grab" by the Mayor Jim Righeimer-led council majority, created by a biased committee of Righeimer allies.

Councilman Gary Monahan, who supported the 2012 charter initiative, Measure V, took strong exception to the "power grab" allegation. He said neither charter provides additional authority for a three-person council majority than what's already been in place since the city's inception.

"If you don't like the people up here, vote them out in November," Monahan said. "But this charter does not give any more power to anybody."

He also said the charter effort shows no similarities to the wrongdoings in Bell, which included the city manager and council members being highly overpaid. Comparisons between Costa Mesa and Bell are just "political hyperbole," Monahan said.

One member of the committee and a council candidate this November, Harold Weitzberg, said he didn't favor what the group came up with. On Tuesday, he again questioned the need for it in the first place.

Much of the 2014 charter repeats what Costa Mesa already has in place, he said.

"The sum and substance is that it does not change anything significant in the way we govern our city," Weitzberg said.

Resident Cindy Brenneman agreed, adding, "What is it that this magic charter will allow you do that we can't already do now?"

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