Commentary: Charter would give Costa Mesa 'home rule'

A federal grand jury has just accused state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) of racketeering and being part of organized crime and gun-running.

State Sen. Ronald Calderon (D-Montebello) has been charged in a federal indictment of accepting $88,000 in bribes.

State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) is awaiting sentencing on a perjury conviction for lying about his residence.

The former CEO of CalPERS, the organization that invests your tax dollars for our employees' retirement, just confessed to accepting $250,000 in bribes, including a wedding at a lobbyist's Nevada mansion.

These are some of the folks that make the laws in Sacramento and invest the money for Costa Mesa's current and retired employees. As a Costa Mesa voter you only get to elect two of the 120 legislators who make the laws in Sacramento. Costa Mesa is controlled by lawmakers you may have never heard of. Successful charter cities, such as Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Irvine, are not.

Thirteen Costa Mesa residents met 16 times over the past year to craft a citizens charter that you will have the opportunity to vote on this November.

These were local volunteers representing every facet of our city. Backgrounds included a retired professor from Orange Coast College, a retired supervisor from the Orange County Fairgrounds, a current employee of UC Irvine and the owner of a local construction company. The committee included vocal charter opponents who actively participated and professionally argued their points of view.

The citizens Charter Committee developed and debated 37 separate concepts, including one calling for the city to phase out our share of property tax revenue from the state. The committee gave this innovative idea a fair hearing, just like every other idea. Every meeting was public, and many members of the public were heard.

At the end of the process the 37 ideas were narrowed down to a four-page "constitution" that gives Costa Mesa voters the power to control their own future. The final vote was 10-1 in favor of the citizen charter or home rule.

Home rule lets us manage our municipal affairs in a responsible way, while retaining state laws to protect our health, safety, elections, council compensation and other city functions. City studies show the charter can save at least $3.5 million each year in reduced operating and contracting costs.

This savings will allow us to spend more money on public safety, improved parks and a continued effort to modernize our infrastructure like new a library and fire station.

Some state and county unions don't like home rule because it lessens their influence on Sacramento politicians. In fact they donated nearly $500,000 in 2012 to defeat a previous charter effort.

Democracy should be as directly representative as possible. I hope local labor associations will join our Costa Mesa Charter Committee in supporting home rule for our city. After all, why would you want to be governed by someone you cannot even vote for?

ANDY SMITH is a member of the Costa Mesa Charter Committee.

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