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Thursday, October 4, 2012

"They" say it says. . .

We'll start our detailed look at the Charter now

The Charter begins with boilerplate defining the City government, assumes the duties, responsibilities and debts of the City when it  was a general law entity, and states the intention of the Charter to establish a city government with all of the powers to govern allowed by State law. Being “legaleze,” it takes a lot of boilerplate to do this. Then:

It's scary, it's bad, it's  . . .

Since CM4RG supports the three "anti" candidates, and leads the union-fueled battle against the charter we'll address their multitude of warnings, listed on their website, first.

Section 103 says (Highlights identify the areas of CM4RG concern on their link (3 Oct):

Section 103. General Powers; Seal

The City of Costa Mesa, by and through its legislative body and other elected or appointed City officials, as may be applicable, shall have and exercise all powers necessary or appropriate to a municipal corporation and the general welfare of its inhabitants, which are not prohibited to it by the Constitution of the State of California, and which it would be competent for this Charter to set forth particularly or specifically, as fully and completely as though they were specifically enumerated  in this Charter. The enumeration in this Charter of any particular power, duty or procedure shall not be held to be exclusive of, or any limitation or restriction uponthis general grant of power, General powers of the city include but are not limited to, the powers necessary or appropriate to promote the health, welfare and safety of its inhabitants. The City shall have and use a common seal and the official seal herein before adopted and now in use by City shall continue to be the official seal of the City.

And CM4RG’s warning about Section 103 is:

CM4RG says: Vague language grants more power to the City Council.

This first sentence means that they have not specifically defined and limited their power, so, even though it isn't written in the charter, it does NOT mean the city doesn't have the power, yet in the next sentence it says what IS in the charter is not meant to be limiting. . . They are open both ways.

With this they can do what the(y) want unless it breaks the State law and if they do – who has the money to sue them to enforce the Charter?

It's unchanged from what we do now

In actuality, the Charter establishes its authority to govern, and includes any powers it doesn't know about at this time that are authorized by State law. That’s pretty much boilerplate.

Right now, if the Council chooses to break State law a citizen can file charges through enforcement, such as the City or County attorney, or can sue privately. Under the Charter, the same holds true. Change? Nada. Raising “monster under the bed” fears about what Council members might do? Yup.

More fear and loathing

Article 2 defines the form of government, and specifies the terms of office, qualifications and such. Thus, we can’t have an “overnight” change of form, say, to three Council members with two being a quorum. That sort of change could be made in Sacramento for General Law cities, but Costa Mesa’s (proposed) Charter addresses the subject so it prevents such changes unless the majority of the voters want them.

In benign places

But, there are more monster fears in this boilerplate. Section 202 says:

Section 202. Time and Place of Meetings; Rules of Conduct of Proceedings

The City Council shall provide by ordinance or resolution for the time and place of holding its meetings. Special and emergency meetings shall be called in accordance with the provisions of the general laws of the State of California. There shall be at least one regular meeting in each calendar month. Any regular meeting may be adjourned to a date and hour certain, and such adjourned meeting shall be a regular meeting for all purposes. Rules regarding meeting locations, notice and conduct of meetings of the City Council and all subordinate legislative bodies in the City shall comply with all State laws and such rules for procedure as are established by ordinance or resolution of the City Council.

CM4RG’s objection?

             More power to the City Council.

When, in several places in this charter, they leave the option for an ordinance or resolution by the City Council to implement some part of the charter, it allows them to grab a little more power.

Remember, only 3 city council members have to vote to approve an ordinance or resolution.

An ordinance requires notice, two public hearings and a 30-day “referendum” period before the ordinance is effective, however a resolution requires no notice, is effective immediately and not subject to referendum. 

Then the complaint warns, in red ink, that "no bid contracts" (which aren't defined by CM4RG or in the Charter) can be adopted by ordinance or resolution. This warning refers to nothing in the boilerplate that it criticizes, it's just an "ad lib" threat -- in case such contracts and procedures might get defined later. Contracting is unlikely to be addressed by resolutions, anyway -- see the  definitions and uses below.

Reality? Now, as well as under the Charter, contracts are processed by City staff with input from the Council forbidden by law. 

That's not scary, and it's not changed

That’s exactly the way we do things now. Are they saying “it’s terrible that we’ll keep doing it the same way?” Probably not, for they don’t propose any changes to our current procedure, they just try to mystify and vilify the Charter.

What are they

An ordinance is a local law . . . and is generally passed by a  (city council) and signed by a   (mayor), and subsequently enforced by local police and district attorneys. Examples might be the COIN ordinance, or a law forbidding smoking in coffee shops. Now and when we’re under the Charter, we’ll have the meetings and waiting period and enforcement: no change.

Resolutions are non-binding, unenforceable, statements made by municipalities’ legislative bodies. They’re used to state a position. Resolutions related to Section 202 might be changing the meeting time or place next month. According to the fear mongers, the Council might get away with changing the meeting time and no one could start a referendum against the change. That will be the same under the Charter.

We're warned to fear . . .nothing

So, CM4RG is either trying to create fear of a “monster under the bed” or is truly alarmed that we’ll continue the same procedures – and safeguards – to develop laws (ordinances). And that we’ll still be unable to have a "referendum to reverse the resolution" if the Council resolves to commend the students of a high school for its active pep squad.

Maybe they think we’ll recoil in fear instead of just reading the boilerplate.

Turn on the lights, it's just a dust bunny

Looks like we found anothermonster under the bed” that turned out to be a dust bunny. 

We’ll look at some more “Charter Monsters” soon.

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