By a vote of 4 to 1, the City Council of Costa Mesa has decided to move forward with a plan for greater control over municipal affairs. On June 5, voters will decide whether or not to join nearly one-quarter of other California cities and become a charter city.
The concept of chartering was first considered in November of 2011. In the last few months, it has continued to serve as a point of controversy. The city has moved ahead with uncommon speed, holding several town halls and two formal public comment meetings along the way. Critics say that residents have had too little input in the process and the city council was unwilling to accommodate changes.
However, Tuesday’s decision on chartering does not put the issue to rest, it simply shifted it from the City Council chambers and into the community.
Councilman Jim Righeimer, who has largely driven the dialogue regarding the charter, told PublicCEO at the end of last year that he believes that the Costa Mesa community will largely support the concept of chartering.
“I have no doubt that this will pass once presented it will pass handily in the city of Costa Mesa,” Righeimer said. “When the public sees local control and the amount of savings they’d get, it’s a no brainer.”
Chris Prevatt, writer at the Liberal OC and occasional contributor to PublicCEO, didn’t mask his distaste for the process that has been used in Costa Mesa.
“Throughout the public hearings on the initiative, Righeimer has refused to allow any thoughtful alterations to his initiative,” wrote Prevatt. “He has made a few surface changes in an attempt to make it look like he considered the significant public comment.”
One of the most controversial aspects of the Costa Mesa process has been what detractors like Prevatt call a closed process. Some cities, when investigating a new charter, form charter commissions. In those cases, residents are elected to serve on a charter commission and draft the language of a potential charter. That draft is then presented to the City Council for approval before going to voters for the ultimate decision.
In Costa Mesa, Righeimer largely relied upon already existing charters from neighboring cities, pulling their language to create a proposed charter for the city. That language was then turned out to the public for comment and feedback.
Righeimer has said that this process allows a more streamlined and efficient process. In his opinion, time is money.
Costa Mesa has millions of dollars in contracts that come due every month. During an interview, Righeimer pointed to the $1.5 million expenditure for jail services that could save $50,000 per month under a new contract administered by the city.