Charter Committee Slogs Forward - Barely
It was an exercise in frustration Wednesday night as I sat for three hours and watched the Costa Mesa Charter Committee continue it's relentless slog toward the creation of a new form of government - whether we need a change or not. Facilitators Kirk Bauermeister and Mike Decker let the committee guide itself for much of the evening.
MUNOZ' PRESENTATION WAS SUPERIOR
The high point - and it was really a high point when compared to the rest of the meeting - was the more than one-hour long presentation by Director of Public Services, Ernesto Munoz. The committee, which is immersed in discussing the Transparency in Public Contracts portion of their deliberations, asked questions at an earlier meeting the needed to be answered by Munoz, so he presented himself to them last night and, armed with an excellent PowerPoint presentation showing our current process for awarding public contracts. By the time he finished even I understood his message.
NO NO-BID CONTRACTS, EVER!
Without regurgitating every word he uttered, I'll give you some of the high points. He pointed out, for example, that there are NEVER any no-bid public works contracts in Costa Mesa. That doesn't mean there are no no-bid contracts in other areas at City Hall - like for computer consulting, management consulting, etc.
A MORE FORMAL BIDDING PROCESS USED
As he went through the process of awarding public contracts - his staff report is HERE - He frequently reminded the committee that much of the public works contracts are funded by grants, and that he and his staff are VERY good at what they do. He described to the committee just why his organization chooses to use a more formal bid process than others might use. He spoke of significant protections for the City's position on the more formal bidding process. He spoke of the over $18 million in public works projects budgeted for this fiscal year, and described in great detail how every project his handled, from start to finish.
Munoz also stressed how successful his organization is at finding grant funds for city projects, emphasizing - in response to a question - that every member of his staff is a skilled grant writer.
DOESN'T WANT TO CHANGE ANYTHING
At the end of his presentation and the question and answer period that followed, it seemed like many on the committee didn't want to see that part of the operations changed significantly. They left a list of "changes" they wanted to discuss next time. Munoz, for his part, left them with this thought. He told them, "The system works. Whatever you do with a charter, don't change it. We're good at what we do." He told them that if they plan to create a charter that changes this process, "I want to be there". It was clear that he thinks his process works well and, based on my observations, most of the committee members agreed.
STUDY HABITS AND PRE-DETERMINED BIAS
There are some committee members who clearly did their homework assignments in preparation for the meeting. And, there were a few who probably did not. And others continue to get stuck on wanting to use Jim Righeimer's (failed) Charter as the foundation for a new one. I had to smile, because it seems, after listening to them through several meetings now, that the very segments they want to cannibalize from that document are some of the elements that caused it to go down in defeat last November.
TRANSPARENCY AND OPENNESS
The committee will return at the next meeting to continue the discussion of Transparency where they left off, and also hope to begin the discussion of "Openness". The process is moving slowly - hampered by those who seemed to be locked into a predetermination of issues - like the defunct Measure V. The way this process is going, I certainly don't expect to see anything resembling a final product until the spring - if then.
At the next meeting they will also discuss whether or not to elect a Chairman and Vice Chair. That should be interesting. I think many of the 20 or so residents and other visitors to this meeting shared a level of frustration at the process, and the fact that some of the committee members just don't seem to grasp some of the most basic of terms and concepts.