Commentary: Column twisted facts about charter city


I read Jeffrey Harlan’s amusing column regarding city charters and felt I had to respond (Harlan: More questions about charter arise, Sept. 22).

Hopefully, the Daily Pilot publishing his utterances of half-truths and misleading information is an anomaly and not a standard practice of the publication. Apparently fact checking is not one of this paper’s strong suits.

To set the record straight regarding the city of Oceanside, I can absolutely document that our 2-year-old charter has saved local taxpayers several hundreds of thousands of dollars since its brief inception.


In fact, the very first contract that was rebid after we threw off the yoke of prevailing wage saved the citizens of Oceanside $146,000 on our library renovation, money that was returned to the general fund to supply services to the families of Oceanside.

Mr. Harlan’s reference to our Harbor Aquatics Center only states a small part of the truth; the final project was not the one originally envisioned. We had planned to place a Community Center on top of a desperately needed new maintenance building.

This was a totally locally funded project that allowed us to build it without the prevailing wage burden. Those local funds were generated substantially by slip renter fees from our harbor.

The plan was scaled back because the slip renters protested paying for a facility they felt was of little or no benefit to them, so the plan for the second story has been delayed with the ability to add it later.

So I guess in Mr. Harlan’s eyes listening to the constituents, and taking a fiscally prudent course of action, is fodder for his misguided attempt to dissuade the citizens of Costa Mesa from saving their own tax dollars by passing their own charter.

Our research shows that on average getting out from under the state mandate of prevailing wage saves on average 12% to 18%, depending on the project. What this means is if we take a very conservative estimate of just 10% and apply that to road resurfacing: instead of getting a thousand feet of road resurfaced, you can now get 1,100 feet.

I must point out that the money for this project comes from your share of the gas tax, which is considered local funds by the state. In the city of Oceanside our Public Works budget is about $30 million per year, and using just the 10% estimate that saves us $3 million a year. I would think that Costa Mesa would benefit from this kind of savings.

There are 18 cities in San Diego County, 10 of which are charter cities. No. 11 will be added in November. Each charter is different and unique to its city. This is because the citizens from each of those cities wanted to take control back from an increasingly dysfunctional state government.

By the citizens of Costa Mesa exerting local control, it takes back from Sacramento some of the powers that are best exercised by the governmental body closest to the people. It will negate some of the actions by an increasing disconnected state legislature that seem to be bent on doing more harm than good.

Every citizen deserves the best government possible. City charters deliver a local government with local control that is accountable to the local citizens. I would urge Costa Mesa voters to adopt the city of Costa Mesa charter.

JERRY KERN is a city councilman in Oceanside.