Los Angeles Times

Commentary: Questions about the proposed charter

Re. "Commentary: Charter frees Costa Mesa from the state," (Sept. 19):

If only! If only the proposed charter were limited to the matters Councilman Gary Monahan writes about, Costa Mesa residents would not be so outraged about it.

There is much in the charter to dislike, but for me the worst is the power grab contained in Section 103:

"The city of Costa Mesa, by and through its legislative body … shall have and exercise all powers … which are not prohibited to it by the constitution of the State of California … as fully and completely as though they were specifically enumerated in this charter. The enumeration in this charter of any particular power … shall not be held to be exclusive of, or any limitation or restriction upon, this general grant of power … ."

Instead of spelling out what new powers the City Council would have under the charter, Section 103 does the opposite. It empowers the council (actually a three-vote majority) to do anything that the California constitution does not expressly prohibit: It grants powers that we can't know about until three members of the present or a future council exercise them.

Citizens pleaded with the council members to limit the new powers to those they touted and that Monahan writes about, those that mainly affect city employees rather than all the residents. But they refused.

I can only conclude that the antiemployee associations sections are window dressing to appeal to voters who want to disable the associations while the real, undisclosed effect is to take protection and power away from the residents and to vest nearly unlimited power in the council majority.

Why did the councilmen refuse to set a dollar limit for no-bid contracts? Why did they give a three-vote majority the power to set any limit they choose, change it at will or delete any limit at all? Do they intend to award city contracts and taxpayer money to their cronies?

Why did they not include an annual, independent audit of the city's finances as every other Orange County city charter does?

Why did they refuse to set standards that would limit their power to arbitrarily grant or deny zoning variances? Is this an opening for favoritism and corruption?

Why did they refuse to appoint a citizens' charter committee to provide public perspective and respond to the real needs of the residents? Were they afraid citizens would take control of the city?

The proposed charter — cut-and-pasted from other cities' charters by one councilman — leaves so many troubling questions unanswered and so dramatically shifts power from the people to the council that the only reasonable response is to vote no on Measure V. If we need a charter, let's try again. Let's have a citizens' charter commission write something that benefits the people not just the councilmen.

ELEANOR EGAN lives in Costa Mesa.

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