New law moves charter votes to November

A state Senate bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday delays when Costa Mesa residents will vote on the charter being drafted by the city's committee.

SB 311, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), mandates that city charters be voted on in the November general election. Previously, charters could go for a public vote in June primary elections, general elections or regularly scheduled municipal elections, according to the bill.

The earliest Costa Mesa voters will be able to approve or deny a charter is November 2014, said Deputy City Attorney Yolanda Summerhill.

"There will be a little bit more time for [the charter committee] to think about things," she said.

The council created a 13-member charter committee in June to draft the constitution-like document after November's effort to enact a charter, dubbed Measure V on the ballot, failed by 60%.

The proposed charter would have changed Costa Mesa from a general-law city under the purview of Sacramento guidelines to one with increased local control, according to the measure's advocates. The Measure V charter also included a provision that would have exempted some city projects from paying prevailing wages, which organized labor says promotes quality work, but detractors say drives up costs.

It's too early to know what will be included in the proposed new draft, committee members said.

Committee member Harold Weitzberg said SB 311 could mean that a more diverse group of voters will determine the fate of charters.

"The voting public that comes out in primaries can be one-sided," he said. "By having it in the general election, we're getting a fairer representation. I think that's a good thing."

However, Mayor Jim Righeimer said he doesn't see the bill having an effect on the potential passing of a charter.

"In our city it's not a partisan issue," he said.

If anything, Righeimer said, the bill's passing is "one more reason to be a charter city," citing Sacramento's push to control local governments.

Committee member Hank Panian was part of the city's first charter committee, which met for about seven months in the early 1970s. The group ultimately decided against recommending a charter for Costa Mesa.

"We're only in the second month [of meetings] so far," Panian said. "Based on the 1971 experience, it will take a few months before we come up with any conclusions."

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