Commentary: Out-of-town official is wrong about charter savings


Re. “Commentary: Column twisted facts about charter city,” (Oct. 5):

Jerry Kern’s commentary is another of the “rush-to-get-a-charter-approved” group’s attempt to sell a flawed charter to Costa Mesans.

Keep in mind that Kern was the chief proponent for the charter in his town, Oceanside. In setting the record straight, he comments that he can “absolutely document that our 2-year-old-charter has saved local taxpayers several hundreds of thousands of dollars.”


Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer, the leader for the proposed charter, proclaims that our charter will save Costa Mesa millions of dollars in the first couple of years. Why then has Oceanside (a much larger city than Costa Mesa) only been able to save “hundreds of thousands” of dollars? Is his “documented” savings more consistent with the true savings associated with charters than the millions touted by Mr. Righeimer and his “gang of four?”

Mr. Kern goes on to say that the Harbor Aquatics Center Project (a project hyped for its cost savings due to charter exemption from state prevailing wage laws) was scaled back because slip renters protested paying for a facility they felt was of little benefit to them. He fails to note that only by scaling back about 35% and eliminating the community center could that project meet the budgeted amount set by the city after the original contractor failed to finish the project, as bid.

In discussing road resurfacing, he says, “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.” He implies that on projects that include gas-tax monies, the city would be exempt from requiring the contractor to pay prevailing wage thereby realizing significant savings from lower bids.

He must be talking to some other state than California. Per a letter to Irvine (a charter city) in 2001 from the California Department of Industrial Relations (the department responsible for administering the prevailing wage law for the state) about the notion that gas tax is local monies, the department states, “No factual or legal basis can be found for the city’s position that gas tax funds are local by nature. Gas tax funds are state revenue over which the state exerts it control ...” and is “outside the ambit of a municipal affair and renders the charter city exemption inapplicable.”

This means that any use of gas tax monies on any city or charter city project requires the use of prevailing wage. This remains the state’s position and has not been overturned by any court.

I, for one, find Mr. Kern to be an outsider, using whatever suits his purpose, to sell the voters of Costa Mesa another “bridge.”

I just ask the question, what does he stand to gain from Costa Mesa becoming a charter city? Why is he really supporting this charter?

I will be voting against the proposed charter for Costa Mesa (Measure V on the ballot) because it will not provide the savings we all hear from the “3M” candidates and will ultimately shift more power to the City Council and remove protections for the citizens of Costa Mesa thus opening our city to abuses, corruption and favoritism that will be very difficult for our citizens to stop.

JAY HUMPHREY lives in Costa Mesa.