Sunday, April 20, 2014

Charter Deja Vu All Over Again Tuesday

Tuesday, April 22, 2014, the next installment of the grand Costa Mesa Charter adventure takes place when the first of two mandatory Public Hearings takes place in City Council Chambers at City Hall beginning at 7:00 p.m.  This is a special meeting, with only the latest iteration of a Charter on the agenda.  The announcement is HERE.  There will be a second mandatory Public Hearing in a month.  Tuesday the council will also discuss what kind of outreach, if any, will be made to the public about this Charter.  In theory - HA! - the council will eventually decide IF a Charter should be placed on the ballot in November.

You can read the staff report for the meeting HERE.  You can also read the March 18, 2014 staff report HERE and the text of the draft Charter HERE.

Over the past year I wrote about the efforts of the Charter Committee - that hand-picked group charged by the City Council (Mayor Jim Righeimer, actually, since this whole thing is his idea) - to craft a Charter for the city.  In point of fact, the night the committee was formed Righeimer said they were to determine if we needed a Charter, then later recanted that comment, even though it was the proper charge for the committee.  They should have determined, to the best of their ability and with strong staff support, IF there was a compelling need for the City of Costa Mesa to convert from a General Law City - which includes all the built-in protections of that form of government - to a Charter form of government.
(The Team - left to right - Sawyer Pendleton, Brenda Green, Mike Decker, Lee Ramos, Gene Hutchins, Tom Pollitt, Brett Eckles, Ron Amburgey, Kimberly Hall Barlow, Hank Panian, Kevin Tobin, Yolanda Summerhill, Kirk Bauermeister, Mary Ann O'Connell, Kerry McCarthy, Andrew Smith, Harold Weitzberg, Bill Fancher and Tom Graham.)

Only a quarter of California cities are Charter cities - including the now infamous City of Bell.  You'll recall that the former City Manager of Bell, Robert Rizzo, was sentenced to a dozen years in prison last week for his malfeasance in office there, which places a resounding exclamation point on the potential problems with that form of government.  

IF the committee determined that there is sufficient need to consider a Charter form of government, THEN - and only then - would they begin the process of building such a document.  Instead, they plowed ahead on the assumption that, just because Righeimer said we should be a Charter city, they should create one.

I attended almost all the Charter Committee meetings, so I observed the hard work that most of the members put in toward their goal.   Even though I don't believe there is ANY need for Costa Mesa to change forms of government, I do appreciate the efforts of that group, their facilitators and the staff to complete the task handed them.

Clearly, there were members who arrived at this assignment with a strong bias one way or the other and a few were willing to listen and discuss the various issues before making a decision.  In the end, though, the result was as I anticipated - a Draft Charter was presented to the council on March 18th, HERE, and that is the document that will be considered Tuesday evening.

Some items you may find of interest.  From the very beginning a year ago there were those on the committee who were adamant that a Charter was necessary to "fix" our Unfunded Pension Liability problem.  It became the mantra of at least one member, who ignored the agreed-upon rules of procedure to frequently slide white papers with his views into the meetings without prior agreement.  Well, there is NOTHING in this Charter Draft that "fixes" the unfunded pension liability.  In fact, Righeimer has admitted recently that there is really nothing the City can do - it's up to the State and CalPERS.

I've mentioned before - see the link above - that the committee spent large parts of many meetings over many months with many hours of staff time devoted to gathering and presenting information regarding council members compensation.  They finally, after much haggling, decided to include a $2,100 per month stipend for each council member - they currently receive $904.40 per month.  However, from that stipend any additional benefits - health care, life insurance, etc. - would be deducted.  Then, at the very last minute at the final meeting of the group, one of the committee members raised a red flag.  He said the voters might think they wanted to give the council a big raise, so he convinced his fellow committee members to eliminate that segment.  As it turns out, several members of the council would have had to actually PAY to be a council member if that plan had been adopted.  I was amused...

It's going to be very interesting to see what kind of community outreach the city plans for this iteration of Righeimer's pipe dream.  Two years ago a meeting was held for that purpose and it was a disaster!  It may be helpful for you to check out an entry I wrote a year ago, which included a bibliography of items relevant to Jim Righeimer's Charter from two years ago and subsequent discussions about Charters, HERE.

So, off we go again.  Once more, despite the fact that a Charter proposal was soundly defeated at the ballot box, Righeimer stubbornly refused to accept the clear mandate against that form of government and jammed this latest iteration down our throats.  I hope some of you will show up Tuesday to let him know how you feel about.  See you there.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I find it interesting, as you noted, that this group was charged first with even finding if a charter was necessary. Only one member of the group actually caught that. Apparently Rig had told the rest to go ahead with it, without informing the group as a whole.

I don't believe this city now feels it needs a charter, and especially doesn't need a charter that give this dictator more power. Yes! I said it. He has taken more than enough power already, whether its legal/ethical or not. (Remembering the missing money at the 60th) Does anyone believe that money is really "missing"? Nah...we just don't know where it is.

While Steve was busy tearing up Fairview Park did Rig come out and say one word about it? No. He knew exactly what was going on, and by whom. Did he try to get to the bottom of it? Not in the slightest. Because that's the way they roll on the 5th Floor.

Its time for a change, and a MAJOR change. We need honest people in office. And I am not talking about his little hand puppet Lee Ramos. Or, Rohrbacher's little protege', Capitelli.

We do have honest people running for council and I hope the city is finally awake and will vote these City of Bell like scumbags out of office in November and they take that lousy charter with them.

4/21/2014 08:00:00 AM  

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