Righeimer To Propose Charter City Tuesday
In a Daily Pilot commentary online HERE, Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer tells us that he's going to propose to the City Council that they immediately begin the process of converting Costa Mesa from a General Law city to a Charter City. We reported on his plan to do this HERE and in a commentary in the Daily Pilot HERE.
This move comes as no surprise, but, like most everything else Righeimer and his cohorts have proposed since taking office this year, is being done with undue haste. It's almost as though he's in a feeding frenzy, trying to quick pitch major government changes before the residents of this city figure out what he's up to - the ill-conceived "outsourcing" scheme is a perfect example.
RIGHEIMER -"IT IS VERY SIMPLE"
In his commentary Righeimer asks himself, "How does it work?", then tells himself, "It is very simple". If only that was true. There are two methods for a city to convert from a General Law city to a Charter city. The first, and most appropriate considering the complexity and impact of the change, is for the City Council to propose to the voters that a change be made to become a Charter city and place that issue on the ballot. AT THAT TIME candidates for a "charter commission" would put themselves forward on the ballot - fifteen people would be elected to the commission IF the voters choose to move forward with the proposal. Once elected that charter commission would proceed with the creation of a city charter, which would subsequently eventually be placed on another ballot for the voters to consider. This is the preferred process.
HURRY UP BEFORE THEY CATCH ON!
The alternate process is to do what Righeimer will propose. He will propose that the City Council create the charter - in his piece he says, "We will have more than three months of public meetings and community gatherings to tailor the charter to Costa Mesa needs and to put proper checks and balances into the system to insure we have the best and most transparent local government possible." Well, that's all well and good, but the final decision on what is in this charter under this method is COMPLETELY UP TO THE CITY COUNCIL - the four-member majority of which has already shown an impatience with rules and controls in place to protect the residents of this city. Quite honestly, I just don't trust these guys to do what is right for our city in this matter.
FOLKS WHO KNOW SAY GO SLOW
When this issue first came up I began contacting folks who had intimate knowledge of the process of creating a city charter. Some had been elected leaders during the process, others had been part of the process of creating and/or modifying a charter. WITHOUT EXCEPTION they shared the opinion that the creation of a charter commission is, by far, the preferred method of proceeding. This would be the second most important event in the history of Costa Mesa - the first being the original decision to incorporate. This kind of a decision DEMANDS calm deliberation by a charter commission selected by the voters who represent a broad cross-section of constituencies in the city and who will place the future of the city - not personal political gain - first.
Although I knew this from the beginning, as you read through Righeimer's commentary his motivation is crystal clear. He uses terms like, "...it has become clear to me that in order for our town to thrive in the 21st century, we free ourselves from the way union-backed politicians..." and "...unsustainable pension costs and byzantine work rules..." and "When a general law city puts a charter up to a vote — the only way the change in governance can occur — the unions rush in with huge amounts of money and misinformation campaigns to defeat the measure." to misdirect the readers.
THEY CAUSED THE "DUBIOUS LAWSUITS"!
Righeimer is intent on busting the Costa Mesa employee associations and apparently views the creation of a Charter city as the method du jour to do it. He complains about "dubious lawsuits", ignoring completely the fact that it was the illegally-implemented outsourcing scheme that caused the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association. Righeimer and his cohorts on the council - by not following their own policies - caused the lawsuit. I mentioned earlier that he doesn't like to follow the rules - this is an example.
READ FOR YOURSELVES
In his commentary Righeimer suggests readers visit the California League of Cities website for information, but doesn't give a link to do so. Well, you can find that information HERE - I suggest you read it for yourself before jumping aboard this runaway train. Take some time to navigate through the various pages, paying particular attention to the chart that compares General Law cities to Charter cities. Also take a few minutes to read the California Constitution section dealing with Charter cities, HERE.
WHAT'S THE RUSH?
I am NOT saying that Costa Mesa shouldn't consider becoming a Charter city. It is very possible that the advantages of such a form of government would, indeed, benefit the city. However, every resident should be asking themselves this question: What's the rush? If converting Costa Mesa to a Charter city is such an important issue, why should this process be rushed through? If it's so important why is Righeimer treating it like he's a sixteen-year-old boy trying to get to third base with a girl in the back seat of his father's Buick? Could it be that the voters of this city may actually be waking up to what this council majority is doing to their city and are ready to make a change next November? Three seats are available next year - enough to bring reason back to the deliberations being conducted on the dais. Three seats are enough to, once again, make the future of Costa Mesa - not the political future of one hack, carpetbagging politician - the primary concern of the City Council.
MYTH OF COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
I suspect there will be more than one or two speakers addressing this issue before the City Council Tuesday - the last meeting of the year. If history is any guide, the council will show impatience with opposing views, shrug them off and do as they please. They will vote to move forward with this plan, create opportunities for residents to address this issue in workshops and public hearings - then ignore the cautions proposed and do as they darn well please. They will put THEIR version of a Charter on the June ballot, rolling the dice that low voter turnout will carry the day for them.