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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More Charter Chat

There’s a lot about the differences between Charter and General Law cities available from the nonpartisan California League of Cities at: . The City site has the link under Charter Measures, too.

Benefits accrue how?

The primary benefit of a charter, as we've seen in earlier blogs, is that “charter cities have supreme authority over ‘municipal affairs.’” That is, a charter city’s law will trump a state law governing the same subject. This is detailed more in a future blog about the proposed Charter for Costa Mesa.

The charter does not need to detail every municipal affair the city wants to govern; it just has to declare that the city intends to use all of the powers provided by the California Constitution. The Charter proposed for Costa Mesa does this and it reserves powers not yet defined, while it absorbs all of the debts and obligations (such as contracts) of the previous city government. Pretty much boilerplate, but that’s what lawyers do.

Summaries and charts for the interested

There’s a summary on the City’s web site that gives a pretty good overview of what is changed for Costa Mesa. In general, whenever a matter involves only Costa Mesa money, property, and/ or citizens, Costa Mesa law will be followed. In all other matters, current state law applies. And, in reality, most of the matters involving only Costa Mesa still continue to be governed by our existing regulations, rules, and procedures, all in accordance with state and federal law. So, no change for most processes and procedures – we just follow our current laws.

Fear and loathing from . . .

But, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to mislead, and to generate “fear and loathing” in Costa Mesa.

For example, I've read and heard that the charter takes away rights granted by the Constitution to individual citizens when it grants all rights not specifically mentioned in state law to the city. That section only deals with the division of power between the City and the State – it does not try to overrule the Constitution of the United States regarding citizens. It is boilerplate that certifies that any city matters that haven’t been specifically defined as state regulated – such as street sizes, which are state mandated – is to be considered solely Costa Mesa’s business.

Friends get special treatment, right

And, there’s a lot of misguided talk, too, about “giving special advantages to (Council Members’) friends.” Hogwash! That’s against the law now, and it will be under the Charter. However, some special interest groups have misled a lot of folks about these “dangers” the Charter raises.

Whose ox is being gored

There’s a reason for everything, so let’s see who is inconvenienced by this specific Charter to get some ideas about who might be promoting misinformation. That’s misinformation in Costa Mesa, especially, but also statewide, and even nationally (see the on the 23 Sep blog for comments from a Newport Beach woman about a National Public radio program ).

The actual dangers in the proposed Charter are to the excess power of some organized labor units in limited areas of their operations. Very limited changes, and it certainly doesn't “defang the unions” any more than it cripples them. 

It does present a risk of more work for some union officials who will have to convince union members to donate to political causes the union supports instead of just assessing their contributions. That’s much like one of the propositions on the State ballot. But, with this provision in our Charter, we know it can’t be changed by Sacramento. And, the Charter insists on fairness in contracting; forbidding preference to union contractors, and that, too, can’t be overruled by Sacramento.

State already solved the problem

Also, I've heard “Governor Brown signed a bill that stopped the union excesses,” so the Charter isn't necessary right now. Not true. He signed a bill that, if it isn't modified any more – unlikely – will start reducing the excesses – but only for newly hired personnel. The legislature and the governor are able to modify even such modest change at any time. However, Costa Mesa’s charter insures that any major changes to compensation or benefits will be presented to the voters for their approval before they can be adopted.

The question is, then, should we depend on Sacramento politicians and lobbyists to keep the benefits’ costs within Costa Mesa’s means, or do we want to control our multi-million dollar outgo ourselves?

What the "Three-M's" get out of this

And I’m hearing more and more that the “three M’s want the Charter to pass so they’ll benefit personally.” Well, if that means get kickbacks and additional business through their positions on the Council, it means that any of them stupid enough to try to benefit personally will soon be in jail, before or after the Charter.

If it means they’ll have exposure to go on to higher office, all three Ms are committed to Costa Mesa and aren’t willing to go to state office. So what will they get from the Charter?

Well, Mensinger will have more playing fields for sports, all three will have better streets, roads and other infrastructure, and all three will enjoy living in a city that attracts good, hard-working folks who want the best for their families so they buy their home in Costa Mesa. In return, they’ll be insulted and be accused of having sinister motives during Council meetings, called names in blogs . . . But they’ll also go to sleep at night knowing they made their City better. A lot better.

We all want some of that

Come to think of it, we’ll all get those bennies without the name-calling. So, what’s not to like?

Coming soon

In a future blog we’ll start digesting the Charter section by section. I’ll try to keep the boring stuff as minimal as possible --- but I’ll give you plenty of references in case you’d like to wallow in the boilerplate sections.

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