SB311 Signed - Pressure Off Charter Committee
Near the end of the Costa Mesa Charter Committee meeting last night in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), attorney Yolanda Summerhill told the committee and facilitators Dr. Kirk Bauermeister and Dr. Mike Decker that Senate Bill 311 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown, which means that, in general terms, most ballot measures involving charters may ONLY be placed on a General Election ballot. She affirmed that, if this committee does, in fact, move forward with a recommendation for a charter to the City Council, they have a little more time on their hands now. The earliest a charter proposal could be placed before the voters would be November, 2014, during the General Election. Mayor Jim Righeimer wanted their work-product to be on the Primary ballot in June of next year.
MORE TIME TO CRAFT A CHARTER
This, of course, is good news for the residents of Costa Mesa, since the committee now has more time to craft a proper charter and no longer have to worry about being mired in minutia. They now have several months more to do the work. I'm not sure all the members will view this as a good idea.
A SMALL CROWD ATTENDED
A few residents and other visitors spoke to the committee, outlining their thoughts about the charter process. The "Prevailing Wage" issue is one that will soon be discussed at length, so representatives from labor and employer groups expressed their views on that subject.
NO "OFFICERS" AT THIS TIME
This meeting of the committee seemed to run fairly smoothly - a fact acknowledged by several members as they addressed the agendized item about whether to name a Chairman and Vice Chairman. The group seems to be satisfied with the facilitation model that's being followed now. Tea Party Tom Pollitt opined that having a Chairman would be good because, once the committee completed its assignment, the media would have someone to ask questions of. In case you're wondering, that wasn't the strangest thing he said last night. So, the committee will continue with the facilitation of Bauermeister and Decker. A good decision.
LEG BONE CONNECTED TO THE KNEE BONE...
Early in the meeting the committee made two decisions that created the beginning bones in the skeleton of what may be a charter for the city. They agreed to call the city "Costa Mesa" and agreed that the current boundaries be codified. If this sounds like something that probably should have been done within the first five minutes of the first meeting, you may be right. But, then, you probably have not been following the proceedings very closely. NOTHING happens quickly, especially when significant chunks of time were wasted at at least two meetings trying to resolve the whole "Invocation" issue posed by Tea Party Tom.
Again, some issues that you'd have thought should have been resolved earlier in this process - definitions of some basic terms - were discussed. Those were:
Yeah, I know.. as I said before, NOTHING happens quickly.
ERNESTO SAVES THE DAY - AGAIN
Once again, the professionalism and presence of Director of Public Services, Ernesto Munoz, was the high point of the meeting. As requested by the committee at the previous meeting, he prepared a memo outlining the current Labor Compliance Procedures, including an extensive list - fourteen (14) items - that outlined steps the staff took during the processing of contracts for the City. Several members expressed admiration that the staff followed such a comprehensive plan as part of their work assignments. More than once we heard members exclaim, "I didn't know about that!". Of course, why would they, or any member of the public? The memo just captured how the staff goes about doing its job without fanfare, but with a very high level of professionalism.
TIGHTENED FOCUS NEEDED
The committee continues to move slowly through the process they originally prescribed, occasionally getting sidetracked by peripheral dialogue by their members. That practice needs to be tightened-up or this process will still be dragging along next summer. One of the problems seems to be the inability of some members to stay focused on the issue at hand. One member, for example, just had to bring up the unfunded pension liability, which was superfluous to the discussion at the time.
ANOTHER LEGAL REVIEW
Much discussion was held on whether certain phrases should actually be part of the charter, or just part of the preamble. Tea Party Tom, for example, seemed firm that he wanted a phrase he created to be a major part of the charter. It was so broad that it basically said the City Council could do anything it wanted. Wiser folks prevailed and the phrase was sent to the legal folks for an opinion.
There were a few amusing moments last night. For example, during the discussions member Harold Weitzberg frequently expressed the opinion that the committee should be wary of changing something that's not broken. At one point Ron Amburgey said, "I hate to admit it, but I agree with Harold." There was a whole lot of smiling after that one.
A LITTLE TIME TO CHAT
The committee seems to have settled in with a pretty darn collegial approach to discussing important issues. There was generally respect for each others views and cordial discussion. However, Brett Eckles suggested that time on the agenda be carved out for each member to just "talk" - to say what may be a specific concern for them. There was agreement from the group, with others chiming in, indicating they felt just a little stifled by the format.
MIS-APPLICATION OF COIN
One of the frustrating moments for me was the stubborn insistence of member Gene Hutchins that the COIN policy be utilized for ALL contracts. You may recall that COIN was hatched by Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger to, theoretically, provide more transparency to the labor contract negotiations. It is specifically NOT designed for public service contracts, but Hutchins just wouldn't let it go. He kept saying that COIN was working just fine when, in fact, we don't have any idea if it will work at all. He sounded like he was just parroting things Mensinger says all the time with no facts to back him up. In the end, the issue was passed to the legal time for an opinion. There's a whole lot of that going on.
ANOTHER ASSIGNMENT FOR ERNESTO
By the time the meeting finally wrapped up, nearly three and half hours later, Munoz had an assignment to provide information at the next meeting about how costs might have differed on recent contracts IF prevailing wages had NOT been used. This is another big assignment for him, but he seemed willing to provide the committee the information. And, Summerhill took away with her several items to research before the next meeting.
Speaking which, the committee will next meet in the EOC on September 11, 2013 beginning at 6:00 p.m.