Comments flood in for proposed charter

COSTA MESA — The City Council on Tuesday rejected pleas from residents who wanted to delay a vote on a proposed city charter until November and possibly have it redrafted by a citizens commission.

And Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, considered the architect of the charter proposal, said he was merely acting on behalf of residents who support the proposal but did not attend the meeting, which was crowded with opponents of the proposed reforms who were against placing them on the June ballot.

"I know everyone doesn't agree with that," Righeimer told some remaining audience members, who were just a few dozen left from the hundreds who packed the chamber and overflow room earlier that night. "But again, I trust the citizens of Costa Mesa to make the right decision."

Conversely, more than 50 residents and organized labor representatives told Righeimer it was he who they didn't trust. One by one, community members took to the podium during the city's first official city charter meeting, one of two required by state law if a city is seeking to go from a general law city to a charter city.

More than 100 comments have been submitted about the charter. Only one was in favor of the charter as-is, according to the city's count.

After going through those and listening to hours of public comments, the council began amending the document.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece, the lone dissenter of the proposed charter on the five-member council, started things off with three motions: one to delay a public vote on the charter until November instead of June; another that would require the city to pay prevailing wages for city projects; and a third to have a citizens commission create a new charter instead.

All three motions died for lack of a second. Councilman Eric Bever was absent from the meeting.

The council left in language that would mandate the city is not subject to prevailing wages for projects funded entirely by city funds, which was a sticking point for many in attendance.

Instead, the council went for the low-hanging fruit.

A revised charter is expected to be posted on the city's website soon, and additions will include a requirement that you must have been a resident for at least two years before becoming a council member, and must continue to live in the city while serving.

Council members agreed to adopt a code of ethics, operate under city ordinances as they do now, adhere to the city's master plan for zoning and require that city contractors use employees who are legally eligible to work.

The council also agreed to include language that city employees are not automatically in a union, and that Costa Mesa will continue to be a "Rule of Law" city, a slogan passed under the previous council when it tried to crack down on illegal immigrants.

The proposed charter will also have a provision requiring a citizens panel to review it every 10 years for potential changes.

A second charter meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 13 at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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