Council to discuss charter

Should Costa Mesa have a charter? How should such a city constitution be created?

A City Council session scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive, is expected to address these and other questions.

A news release from the city said it has grappled with whether Costa Mesa, a general-law city, should draft a charter and whether by a commission of 15 voter-elected members or a committee of appointees, the number of which and process of choosing would also need to be determined.

The possibility of an "independent facilitator" and legal counsel in the drafting process is also up for discussion. The process related to the forming of a commission or committee would be subject to the Brown Act, the state's open-meeting statute.

If a committee were created, the members would meet, draft a charter and then submit it to the council, which could subject it to public debate and then make its own changes before submitting it for final voter approval.

If the commission route were chosen, its membership would be selected during the 2014 June primary, thus making a potential vote on the commission's charter happen, at the soonest, in 2016, according to city staff.

Staff said And then it would go directly to voters and the council would not touch it.

Staff said that according to state regulations, a charter developed by commission must be completed within two years of the panel's creation — or else the commission must be dissolved and no charter would result. In addition, a majority of the commission's members would have to approve the document. After submission to the city clerk, voters would have a chance to accept or deny the charter — it would bypass the City Council — in a vote coinciding with a statewide general, primary or regularly scheduled municipal election, according to city staff.

Costa Mesans soundly rejected the last attempt to institute a city charter, Measure V. In the November general election, nearly 60% of voters — 20,529 — said no to the initiative, according to the finalized Orange County Registrar of Voters tally.

Proponents of the charter, led by its architect, then-Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, contended that the document was needed to spur taxpayer savings, pension reform and more home rule for the city.

Opponents, however, including organized labor and some local grassroots groups such as Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, called the charter a council "power grab" that, among its other faults, wasn't even created with community input.

The day after Measure V's defeat, Righeimer publicly said he wants the city to try again for a charter, established with residents' input and ready in time for the June 2014 primary election.

"We want to make sure everybody's on board … that everybody feels comfortable about the process," Righeimer said at the time.

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