Progress And Angry Frustration Mark Charter Meeting
Nearly two dozen visitors observed as the Costa Mesa Charter Committee, facilitated by Dr. Kirk Bauermeister and Dr. Mike Decker, met again Wednesday night to continue the long, slow march toward having a document ready to present to the City Council by the end of February. And the stress of their task is beginning to show.
The items discussed last night were:
- Sale of City-Owned real estate
- Unfunded Pension Liability
The agenda was juggled a little to accommodate a presentation on our current Pension situation by Jeff Arthur, Chairman of the Pension Oversight Committee. Arthur presented a group of slides explaining pension jargon and some significant numbers. As of 6/30/12, our unfunded pension liability is at $228,000,000. He showed charts, none of which are suitable for duplication here, showing the growth of the obligation, and also mentioned some possibilities the Charter Committee may wish to consider for inclusion:
- Prohibit retroactive benefit increases
- Council supermajority for increases
- Vote of the people for increases
NOTHING TO BE DONE...
The committee discussed Arthur's numbers at length and speculated about things that might be done in a Charter and acknowledged that there is NOTHING they can do about the current unfunded liability. They came up with a statement requiring voter approval for any increase in pension/other retirement and post retirement health benefits. It's unclear just how that might be implemented, so it will be discussed further at the next meeting - on February 12th in Conference Room 1A at City Hall at 6:00 p.m.
They moved on to Outsourcing. Bob Ooten, current member of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board of Directors and a man with decades of experience managing operations with the Orange County Sanitary District presented his views on the value of Outsourcing earlier during Public Comments.
Following a lengthy debate the committee came up with the following language for the Charter on this issue:
The City may enter into a contract for any services unless limited by the constitution of the State of California. The City shall periodically review its existing operations and services to consider whether said operations and/or services may be performed as, or more, efficiently and effectively by a third party. Any contract entered into pursuant to this provision shall be ratified in accordance with the procedure set by the City Council.
SALE OF PROPERTY
They briefly spoke about the Sale of City-Owned Real Estate and left the following statement to be discussed further, if necessary:
The sale, conveyance or exchange of any real property owned by the City shall require supermajory approval of the City Council.
They also briefly considered the following language for the Charter:
All powers of the City shall be vested in the City Council except as otherwise provided in this Charter.
POLLITT FLIPPED OVER "COIN"
The then moved on to COIN, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger's much-ballyhooed and as yet untested scheme to improve transparency in labor negotiations, and a discussion of whether it should or shouldn't be placed in a Charter. At this point the tensions between some members that had been building began to manifest themselves. Sharp comments between Harold Weitzberg and Kerry McCarthy and Weitzberg and Tom Pollitt marked the discussion. Frequent references to "the unions" rankled Weitzberg and the comments seemed more political than helpful. At one point Weitzberg corrected Pollitt's remark that a "union-backed council" approved recent pension increase decisions - reminding him that the council majority that approved those changes was not "union-backed". Pollitt lost it! His face turned beet red, he slammed his fists together, jumped up, turned briefly toward Weitzberg, then spun on his heel and stormed angrily into the small kitchen room and slammed the door behind him. He returned about a minute later, apparently calmer, but left the meeting promptly after it ended shortly thereafter. That was the worst moment of all the meetings so far and doesn't bode well for future meetings.
MORE ANGRY COMMENTS
Member Bill Fancher also complained to Decker and Bauermeister about being ignored, and that it took 20 minutes for him to be recognized to make a statement or ask a question. I didn't see that happening, but he might have thought it did. Again, another tense moment. Clearly, the stress of this process is getting to some of the members. Only Mary Ann O'Connell was absent tonight.
TIME TO TIGHTEN FOCUS
I suspect the next couple meetings could get interesting as the committee begins to tighten up the language they've created. They've almost finished their agenda and appear to be on schedule for that end of February date to present their work product to the City Council. We'll see on February 12th.
SANITARY DISTRICT BOARD TO CONSIDER ORGANICS RECYCLING
Off to the Costa Mesa Sanitary District meeting Thursday at 5:30 in the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (Lions Park) to hear the Board discuss their Organics Recycling scheme and see if they actually vote on it. It's possible they will commission more community outreach meetings like the two already held to further gauge community sentiment for this costly, inconvenient change in the way our trash is handled.