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The aim of this blog is to fit into the blogosphere like the bracingly tart taste of yogurt fits between the boringly bland and the unspeakably vile.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mixed selection

The Charter study session Tuesday evening was a demonstration of rudeness, unruliness, failure to read the material before speaking, routine and expected commentary, and finally a demonstration of an honorable man, who happens to also be a politician. It also was well-run. Costa Mesa is fortunate to have a thoughtful, thinking, and effective City Council.

The complainers complained

We heard only talk, no song, from a frequent complainer. He hasn't honored the council with his wit for a while. He carefully worded his name-calling but got in some obnoxious innuendos. He was called on it by another speaker and by a Council member.

He further demonstrated his lack of manners by yelling at the Council members from the audience. Mayor Pro Tem Mensinger told him they’d talk privately at another time. Decorum at a Council study session?

Wow. Mayor Righeimer and his Council are changing the game. Imagine speakers addressing the Council and each other with manners. Kudos to the Council and especially to the Mayor.

If we define leadership as “inspiring willing and enthusiastic cooperation in the accomplishment of a goal” then the Council – and the citizenry -- have been lead well, very well. The habitually-unruly folks’ mothers didn't imprint decorum, but the new council – and the other speakers -- will.

Same opinion, different date 

Some of the speakers regurgitated their usual opinions, those they have expressed unchanged since early in the last election. Their opinions haven’t changed, but the name-calling, belittling, and labeling has markedly diminished. Some of the speakers, though, were well-informed, refined and passionate.

A few speakers and a Council member wanted any charter studies postponed while essential information was studied and developed. One speaker even volunteered to perform the studies himself. Much of the information they demanded appeared in the staff report that was available on the back table for anyone interested. And, some of the projections they demanded are impossible to develop without a specific charter to evaluate.

The intriguing question was, “we don’t know what benefits a charter would offer Costa Mesa.” Some wanted a list, some wanted quantification of dollar value. I wonder if the early American Colonists had to face that kind of inquiry. Imagine:

Back in 1775. . . 

“Yes, yes, I know the taxes are bad. And we don’t have anyone looking out for our interests back in Parliament. But is there a dollar value for the taxes we’ll actually save? I think we’d better study this some more . . . We need to hold an election to select some people to study whether we should write a letter to the King or not.  Oh, no, now we’re in for it. Some fools threw all that British tea into the ocean and now . . . What does a lantern in the Old North Tower mean?”

Not sophisticated or knowledgeable 

Folks asking what the Charter will do are displaying naiveté. Or they may be using Alinsky manipulation to obscure the question. The opinion of educated politicians, legal scholars and involved citizens pretty much coincides on the issue of the value of charters; a charter can put local matters under the control of local people. The individual parts are written to guide the development of city law and procedure.

So the question, “What one thing will a charter do for us?" is specious. It will do whatever its provisions specify it will do.

Thus the idea of studying the effects and costs of a charter, before a charter is written, is silly. It might generate some income for whoever is hired to study it, but the effects and costs can’t be determined until a charter is available to evaluate.

Once a charter is drafted, it can be analyzed (and certainly will be, given the City’s penchant for transparency). It can be modified, debated, tuned, re-tuned, and adjusted. Once the rough edges are smoothed, the populace in general can have at it – hopefully from well-informed positions.
Then, and only then, we’ll know what the charter will probably do for us, and what the costs are likely to be. That’s the time to decide if we want a charter on the ballot. And that decision can be made by the City Council or by a petition by voters.

Make it a workable guide 

The attorney presenting information to the Council warned that a charter should be as general as possible to avoid holding frequent elections to keep adjusting things. One speaker noted that a neighboring city offers changes to its charter about every election year. Heeding the warning could save Costa Mesa a lot of time and money.

For example, say the charter specified that financial matters conform to accepted accounting standards. When the recommended independent audit frequency changed, the City staff would change its audit schedule to that frequency. 

If the audit interval were specified in the charter, then the frequency change would have to be submitted to voters. This would add the expense of the election, and the time required to send the matter to the electorate, to the process. In either case the final audit frequency would be that specified by public accounting boards that specialize in governmental matters.

Mayor is admirable

Mayor Jim Righeimer stated that he had erred in the way he pushed for the charter last fall, had learned a “hard lesson” and was now working to apply that lesson. He wanted the charter then to help his City remain solvent and grow, and he wants it now for the same reason.

He said he erred! That is unusual for a politician; it’s not too unusual for a statesman. It’s normal for an honorable man. On that basis alone, we've elected an impressive Mayor. The time control of Council meetings and the increased decorum in debate show that he’s a good leader as well.

We've got a good City Council

We believe that Costa Mesa has an exemplary elected government. Council members don’t agree with each other, and this blog has disagreed with every one of the Council members within the past two months. But the debate, on the dais and off, has been honorable. Good people can disagree and remain good people.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Charter Chat II

More about charters

The City of Murrieta, with a slightly smaller population (~103K vs. ~109K in 2010) wrote this about charters:

…a knowledgeable, involved electorate should both propel and constrain the direction of its own city. Local control has always been a paramount matter of residents, businesses and the Murrieta City Council. Yet state legislators and previous gubernatorial administrations continue to impose far greater mandates, while at the same time hindering the ability of local governments to operate successfully.

With little ability to protest, local governments have watched as the state government continues to balance its budget deficits on the backs of fiscally responsible local jurisdictions…The voice of cities in Sacramento has become mute due to a combination of special interest groups, influential political campaign contributions and tone-deaf lawmakers passing unfunded mandates. This process has left cities with little ability to petition the state government…

And further noted that:

A city charter is a unique document that acts like a constitution for a city adopting it. Overall, this puts more control into the hands of the residents.

The charter city provision of the state Constitution, commonly referred to as the “home-rule” provision, is based on the principle that a city, rather than the state, is in the best position to know what it needs and how to satisfy those needs. The home-rule provision allows charter cities to conduct their own business and control their own affairs. Therefore, a charter maximizes local control.
Most of the opposition to city charters is funded by organized labor, which includes groups called “associations” rather than “unions.” (This reminds us of the line in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet “A rose by any other name . . .” Both suggest that the thing itself is not defined by the word chosen for it.) We’ll use the terms “union, association and organized labor” interchangeably unless otherwise noted.

Unions are businesses 

Remember that unions are business entities; they thrive by adding members and increasing benefits. So, they’re frightened by a provision that allows city projects to be awarded by competitive bidding (best offer from a reputable bidder.) If the city isn't forced to use a union-labor contractor the number of union jobs is lower. That is, the union business is operating at a lower profit level, and some responsible union officials may lose their jobs.

Similarly, the unions have unbelievable clout in California because of their ability to infuse massive amounts of money to influence laws that benefit their members. This money comes from “donations” that are assessed, and then extracted by payroll deduction to pay for political activities. 

Everybody's gonna donate -- or else

In theory, it’s possible for a non-union member (who has to pay union dues anyway) to refuse the political activity deduction. In practice, what labor wants (from employees), labor gets. Subsequently, the money helps the union business grow. It funds intense campaigns to pass laws to draw dues from non-members, laws to require union labor on jobs, laws . . .

The charter offered to Costa Mesa in the last election was a good example. Between half and three-quarters of a million dollars was infused into little Costa Mesa to defeat the charter.

If the money had come from union members just in Costa Mesa there’d have been some really small paychecks during the year. But it actually came from throughout California. It was money withheld from everyone’s check as a “donation” if they were required to pay union dues.

That Charter specified that dues but not “political donations” could be deducted from paychecks. So, the union officials would have had to convince members, specifically, to donate in support of a cause rather than just not complain about the payroll deduction. Obviously, unions vehemently opposed this potential loss to its profit and ultimately to its power.

Details are up to the City

But detailed provisions for charters aren't specified in law. Stockton and San Bernardino included provisions to require union contractors and to set union wages and benefit increases in a manner that soon bankrupted the cities.

So what provisions should go into a Charter?

Another Charter says

Anaheim’s charter includes 15 articles, or chapters pertaining to specific subjects. These are:

ARTICLE VIII. Left Blank Intentionally

Within each article are sections pertaining to matters that affect the subject of the article. Every specific section or rule should discuss one specific matter. Then it’s possible to find and to refer to that matter by a unique number.

Save what's inside for later

We’ll discuss this charter’s provisions in future posts, along with how each provision might affect Costa Mesa if it appeared in our charter. 

It’s not difficult, but it’s sometimes boring to read a charter since there is  a lot of boiler-plate to meet legal needs. It’s interesting to explore, though, and to speculate how each article would affect our City. 

We’ll omit the boring boilerplate as much as possible.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Odds and ends  

Potpourri to catch up before the weekend

Water Boarding

We've been reading (suspicious or paranoid, take your pick) articles about the “sinister” activities of the Water Board. So, we were interested to hear James R. Fisler, President of the Mesa Water District Board of Directors, speak at a CM Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday morning. Specifically, he spoke about the new decoloration plant, the Board’s accomplishments to date and their plans for Costa Mesa's future.

The new plant removes the color from an amber-stained supply in the aquifer, making the water more appealing. He said that the water supply for Costa Mesa is independent from outside sources and should last 300-500 years.

He didn't address speculation about the Board’s plans to sell the department; however, the five-year and extended plans he discussed gave no indication of plans for sales or for consolidation with a desalination activity. The talk and the meeting ended without time remaining for questions.

During private conversations the organization’s engineer passionately explained the need for maintenance of well over a billion dollars’ worth of water conduit, and Mr. Fisler deflected a question about the decisions to re-brand and to increase PR expenditures. The PR issue was superficially addressed in his talk. That is, we learned how the logo was painstakingly developed, and the extent of the effort to educate Costa Mesa about the Water Board, but not why.

More Vegas drama

We've mentioned the silly hullabaloo about the Mayor and Pro Tem attending a convention in Las Vegas. 

More silliness from a local blogger

He suggested he’d evaluate the Council majority based upon how they incorporated folks who opposed them in the committees they were filling. Then the same, ah, person outlined the nomination and voting to show that “the boys” overruled “the girls.”
He probably felt that the “girls vs. boys” would irritate the Mayor. It’s unlikely that Righeimer or Mensinger would concern themselves with uninformed evaluations or of a personal opinion blog of minor influence.

Matching up those who work together

The committee selections pretty well followed the principle of forming teams to get the work done. John Stephens, one of the labor-supported candidates for Council in the last election, was appointed to the Pension Oversight Committee. Although he is clearly not a Council-majority supporter, apparently two of “the boys” believed that he could contribute more value than harm. Generally, though, the majority, often including Genis, filled the seats with folks who had similar beliefs and would be likely to work toward the same goals as the Council.

Too much fluff, too little thinking 

Whining, labeling, name calling and snide, “insider” innuendos substitute for arguments of substance in a lot of comments on newspaper columns. Unfortunately, the same is true for some current blogs. That’s too bad; in our opinion the City would benefit from reasoned argument based upon facts and logic. Out of context phrases and “interpretation” of what someone means or intends is fluff.

Meaningful quote, attribute it right                              

During the recent “STOP THE GUNS” discourse in the media, one side has been quoting Thomas Jefferson. According to the articles he said, “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms … disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes … for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

Actually, this comes from a passage in his “Legal Commonplace Book” as a truth he attributes to one of his references.

Crime and Terrorism can be decreased not stopped

The Boston disaster brought crime and terrorism back into the light. Once again, evil exists, and crime of opportunity will be committed. The only reduction we can effect is through improving society. 

As mentioned in an earlier blog, crime drops where the community cares. Cops are generally honest where the community cares and respects law and law enforcement.  Terrorists can’t thrive where people care about their communities and about each other. Crime thrives and terrorists grow in slums.

Will we have violence and tragedy anyway? Absolutely. What increases disorder are residents convinced that government agencies are responsible for their safety. Focusing on the tools for terrorism diverts attention and emotion without offering any protection.

Look at the nightly news to see strong efforts to use these two techniques. (BBC has some pretty good reporting about U.S. matters for those interested in a different perspective.)

Blame the evildoer sometimes, the hardware other times

We blame the drunk driver for a fatal accident. We blame the Boston terrorists for the havoc they've caused. But, some would have us blame guns for the Colorado massacre. Illogical, inconsistent, and irrational.

Join and take over, it's easier

Folks jump on a movement of passionate believers to get their own agendas completed. For example, anti-hunters jump on an ill-conceived and unsupported belief that Condors are endangered by lead in bullets. They advocate everything from no-lead bullets to a tax on every bullet. (The bullet tax would go to fund wildlife education much like the education bonds’ money goes to schools – not much and not often.) Condors eat wheel weights and solder, rarely any broken-open bullets. The next step is to regulate, tax, then eliminate bullets.

Foie gras

Another example might be the brouhaha about fatty goose liver.   It cannot be sold in California because the geese are “treated cruelly to get their livers fatty.” That may be true somewhere, but not where we've seen it in operation, and cruelty wasn't found in basic internet research. Feeding for foie gras However, the folks who insist that everyone should be a vegetarian can jump on the “cruel” liver fattening techniques that may be employed somewhere.  It’s easier to expand laws against selling fatty goose liver than to enact laws from scratch to forbid eating meat.

MYOB is good advice

If you don’t want to eat meat for moral reasons that’s admirable. But, someone who wants his preferences and beliefs enforced on others demonstrates hubris like that of tyrants: Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Chavez. Folks have no right to regulate others’ behavior unless it actually impacts them.

End of odds and ends 

That should take us through the weekend. We’ll be back later with more
on the local political scene, what goes into a charter, and other matters that intrigue us.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Leadership and Management

The Council meeting last night was busy and productive. It invited revisiting a “leadership vs. management” discussion.

Leading or managing: they're different

Management involves skills like projection, and practices like planning. For our purpose leadership is “inspiring willing and enthusiastic cooperation in the accomplishment of a goal.”

Righeimer announced early this year that he wanted Council meetings to proceed smoothly and efficiently to save time for important issues. He said he wanted to get “consent” items – those accepted by batch vote – processed without pulling and discussing each one.

That’s what the “Consent Calendar” is intended to accomplish. Controversial items should be moved to the regular agenda to allow research and preparation by the Council members, City staff and speakers.

The smooth meeting and efficiency last night spoke of both good leadership and good planning by the Mayor. And thanks are due to the Council members and speakers who thoroughly researched their issues.

Some understood what they discussed 

We enjoyed examples of well-prepared speakers providing considered input to the Council. We also saw folks, on the Council and not, who didn't understand the question but were ready and willing to enthusiastically argue for their answer.

Award to our Historians

The Mayor’s Award was to the Goddards, pillars of the Costa Mesa Historical effort. They have fueled, pushed, dominated, persisted, and professionally documented Costa Mesa’s history. Art gave a great outline of our history from “Big Bang to Present (Council)” as he described it. He gave an educational and entertaining talk. It's worth viewing on the City site.  Council video

Logic commentary not a rehash of news 

The meeting was documented in news media, and the video of it is online or will be imminently. This blog will comment on the logic in selected discussions.

Prepared speakers

The frequent speaker who focuses on Dog Park issues was prepared, arguing for raking up the grass clippings because they become a foul mess when lots of dogs are in the area and their feces and urine mix with the decomposing grass.

A regular speaker presented a clear analysis of a City problem, which he amplified in subsequent three minute expositions.  He argued that Costa Mesa cannot attract good businesses or productive, upwardly-mobile homeowners to the Westside slums

He amplified his premise by painting a picture of how major enterprise researches new locations. They visit the area; graffiti, trash and slums drive them away. Upwardly-mobile homeowners and good infrastructure signal “customers here” and attract them.

Not well-thought out

He also discussed what would seem to be obvious: he said that major businesses being invited to Costa Mesa should not be publicly identified early because other cities would focus on “taking them away from us.” This was to refute a demand from a speaker that the Mayor and Pro Tem report on the results of their trip to the Las Vegas conference.

The speaker wanted Righeimer and Mensinger to report who they talked to and who seemed interested. She was clearly focused on insuring that they didn't get off easy after taking a trip to Vegas. She hadn't thought through the consequences to her demand. 

That’s not unusual in Council commentary. She was expounding on her blogger’s post about the “Vegas Boondoggle.” More below and at Las Vegas envy.

Don't play their game

The Mayor used poor judgment, in our opinion, by addressing speaker criticism of dropping the ABLE project. (ABLE supplied the City with helicopter policing. The program was evaluated last year by Costa Mesa and abolished. It was replaced with a contract service providing many more hours of availability at much less cost.)

Taking time to explain the decision again was unnecessary. Note that a common manipulation technique, espoused by Allinsky, is to distract your opponents by demanding that they keep defending their decisions, good or bad. The idea is to deflect from real issues. The chronic complainers succeeded briefly last night.

Short and effective efforts

A planned development on the Westside was presented to the Council in much shorter order than the last one. Part of the time savings was the attenuated explanation by the developer. It was also shorter because this time Ms. Genis didn't belabor a six-inch elevation discrepancy between views in the early documentation.

Members were selected for the City’s advisory committees. (Full disclosure; this blog’s author was selected for an alternate position on one of the committees.) The procedure was clunky but worked.

More silliness again

More foolishness was noteworthy during the meeting and beyond. We previously mentioned the likelihood of false outrage about a trip to Las Vegas to promote the City. Las Vegas envy  Nay-sayers spoke and emoted in their blog, as predicted.

This item was pulled from the “Consent” agenda for discussion – said discussion involving over half an hour. Since our cost represented ~$5000 in a $20,000,000 budget, or less than a quarter of a percent . . .  it was “much ado about nothing.”

Also pulled for discussion, this one by a frequent – or constant – speaker was the item about distribution of tickets to City officials. This ordinance was required by a recent California law; just an update to avoid thievery that was prompted by the Bell debacle. Costa Mesa’s transparency awards suggest the issue may not be of great importance to us.

However, this speaker apparently didn't understand the issue. She wanted to address how much the City spends on charitable donations, such as by buying a table at money-raising events. (This is common among business and government entities that use the tables to help develop support for the City – and to increase donations to the charity.) The speaker apparently thought we should save our money to use on pensions that are presently unfunded.

So, overall we saw effective leadership and good management by the Mayor. We saw generally well-considered presentations by several speakers and by most Council members. And we noticed that some people still insist on presenting their solutions and criticisms to the Council before they understand the issue. And a local blogger still insists on attacking Mensinger and Righeimer -- regardless.

That’s democracy at work; messy, sometimes appallingly-silly, but it’s made us the greatest nation in history.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What is expected  

Today we’ll discuss news items about a Las Vegas trip to promote the City and also one about a local man who was killed in an explosion, probably a suicide.

Belongs at the scene

The last item was terrible, as suicides and pipe bombs are. Costa Mesa’s Mayor visited the scene, as Mayors do in disasters. The Mayor is the senior government officer of the city and belongs at the scene or at least in contact with the scene.

He may need to mobilize more resources. Maybe he just needs to be brought up to date in case more is needed; or in case families should be contacted. Maybe he needs to explain what is known to the public.

Yes,he’ll need to go into the disaster area, however distasteful that might be. A respectful leader will stay out of the way of the professionals – the law enforcement officers (LEO) – but he’ll be there. Righeimer waited until invited to cross the police line by LEOs. He was a leader being where he belonged, for the right reasons, and respecting the professionals at the scene.

Leaders get out in front and lead

Our Mayor leads from the front when disasters, horrors, sports events, City celebrations, or anything of significance happens in Costa Mesa. Military officers learn that they must be present, and must be available to listen, help, or participate when they are in command. Police and fire officers learn to follow and use a chain of command, and to respect it because it works.

A lesser man might use the event for his personal publicity – we didn't see a press conference to announce Righeimer was at the scene of the explosion. He just went to work.

If you haven't done it

People who've avoided the challenge of command or the demands of public office haven’t “walked in the shoes” of those who have. They need more than snarky comments to be taken seriously. Research and interviewing those they distrust could make their observations credible.

Trip to Vegas

Now for the Las Vegas convention that's on the City Council agenda tonight.

The City is a member of International Association of Shopping Centers (IASC) in order to contact and attract business to Costa Mesa. The Mayor and Pro Tem represent our City's governmental authority, and the accompanying staff represents the “how to” for businesses interested in coming to our City. They are going to Las Vegas to build awareness of Costa Mesa in large businesses.

Next, both men are quite successful, so a free trip to Las Vegas isn't likely to be personally valuable to them. The trip interrupts their personal and professional lives. But, there’s entertainment in Vegas, so, they may be able to play a slot or see a show. The City Staffers with them may see the trip as a boon, though.

So what?

Why bring up what seems so obvious? A local blogger is looking askance about the Mayor daring to cross the police line while other residents had to remain behind it until the investigation was completed. 

Earlier he speculated suspiciously about having Mensinger and Righeimer go to Las Vegas at City expense. That is, he’s critical of what the Mayor and Pro Tem do -- just  because he doesn't like them – period.

Criticize away, but find the facts first

There’s nothing wrong with criticism. That’s what keeps politicians, police officers, and newspaper editors honest. Lack of criticism is dangerous to our society. And the right to criticize is one guaranteed by our Constitution.

But would it be too much to ask for some research, some thought? If the Mayor is doing what he's supposed to do, find something else to criticize.

Why not ask him

Wouldn't you think that someone with so many suspicions would ask the Mayor for answers? The Mayor is available; in fact Righeimer was about a mile from the blogger’s home for the first Meet the Mayor

And the Pro Tem is walking over every street in Costa Mesa, with anyone interested invited to join him three mornings a week. (They don’t even have to join the “Costa Mayberry Walking Club” and wear an official T-shirt!)

So is the uninformed criticism bland or vile? Neither, it's just bleh. Predictable and irrelevant.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Charter chatter 

Costa Mesa is presently a “General Law City,” subject to a lot of control through the State legislature. However, her City Council seems likely to revisit the issue of a Charter soon.  Charters are essentially just City Constitutions.

Peddling influence efficiently

Lobbyists love General Law Cities because their efforts can be concentrated in Sacramento. The legislation they sponsor (or buy) there applies to all General Law Cities in the State.

The City’s governing body, the City Council, is concerned with its residents and the welfare of its city, but what it can change is limited in a General Law city. One lobbyist can easily cause more change to life in the city than the whole City Council can.

Charter City governs itself

In a Charter City, the other type allowed under California law, the overall state laws, such as driving and street and integrity statutes, are still enforced. However, the various measures that are applied, willy-nilly, by Sacramento to all General Law cities don’t affect Charter Cities.
Let’s look at a few specifics. In a Charter City, as in a General Law City, meetings must be publicly announced, and elections conducted according to standard rules. That’s state law, and it applies in both types of cities.

Ordinances still enforced 

In both types of cities, codes of conduct, procedures for purchasing, and operational rules are written into the city codes (or books of laws and procedures). So, for example, if a city ordinance specifies an audit by outside auditors every three years, that law is enforced, whether it’s a Charter or a General Law city.

The protections of State Law apply in both types of city. Charter Cities have no bogeymen waiting to issue “no bid contracts” as was asserted during the last election. Council members can’t affect contract awards in either type of city without facing prison sentences, per State law.

How it works 

For example, the Council can specify that purchases over $50,000 must follow a specific formal procedure labeled “bidding.” This legally-defined procedure involves publishing the RFP (Request for Proposal) for a certain period of time, advertising the purchase in a specific manner, developing specifications through which bidders prove that they meet requirements (such as having equipment to do the job, and financial ability to perform a job of that size). This state law is enforced in both Charter and General Law cities.

Let’s use the example of the purchase of paint and painting equipment. If it’s expected to cost over $50K, the formal procedure is followed, which is expensive and time consuming. It might provide net savings to the city. The City Council sets the levels at which formal bids are required.

City procedure by city staff

If the supplies are expected to cost less than the trigger amount, the city follows its internal procedures. For example, the city may allow department managers to make purchases up to $10K by just placing an order with an existing provider; they order from a catalog. Most managers call providers to find the best price and delivery, and then sign the order. City procedures specify how the departments document their purchases.

If the supplies are likely to cost more than $10K but less than $50K  internal rules might require that the City Manager get “bids” or cost proposals from three suppliers. The City Manager issues the order based upon what the suppliers propose in their replies. Documentation is specified in city procedures.

Council buys nothing, staff does

The City Council oversees the operations, and may audit to check that city procedures are being followed. But it can’t “give contracts to its friends,” as the frenzied commenters warned, whether the city is a Contract City or a General Law City.

Making new laws 

What about changing the city ordinances? That’s the City Council’s job. And remember from earlier discussions, Costa Mesa has a representative government. All of the residents don’t vote for an ordinance, only the Council Members do. And, the majority makes the decision.

So, although the screaming nay-sayers worked themselves into lathers warning that “only three votes determines the law under the (proposed) Charter,” that’s how it’s supposed to work. And, majority rules in both City Contract or General Law cities.

In either type of city, an ordinance must survive two readings and a thirty-day wait before it becomes law. It is subject to referendum during that time whether in a Charter or a General Law city.

Crooks, unsustainable wage guarantees still possible

Charters can be written to cause disasters of
course, as in Stockton. And crooks can slip thievery in where transparency is weak, as in Bell. But adopting a charter doesn't make a city subject to graft and corruption; the charter is usually a benefit to the city. And, Costa Mesa’s government transparency wins awards.

Which is best 

The only advantage to being a General Law City accrues if that city is unable to stand on its own. Costa Mesa is certainly self-sufficient in most resources. We’re even independent of the State for our water!

So what’s the advantage enjoyed by a Charter City?

According to the California League of Cities,

The ability to govern in the general law cities is “bound” by state law “regardless of whether the subject concerns a municipal affair.” On the other hand charter cities have “supreme authority” over municipal affairs under their constitutions – the charters.

We've seen the State suddenly raze the redevelopment agencies, raid the cities’ funds, and “re-direct” vehicle license fees that were constitutionally guaranteed to the city. The residents, and especially the funds, of Costa Mesa are becoming fodder for the bigger fish. Sacramento couldn't do these things to us if we were a Charter city – at least not so easily and directly.

There's more than this to consider

Maybe a Charter would be a good thing for Costa Mesa. 

What’s in a charter?  

We’ll look into that in a future post. It involves legal matters, so there’s a lot of nit-picking and defining, and numbering and . . . but we’ll deal with that next time.