Mailbag: Charter city should require court of review

"Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely," astutely observed Lord Acton.

For this reason, if there's to be a new constitution for Costa Mesa, it should include a court of review — akin to the U.S. and California supreme courts — to provide local checks and balances on the Costa Mesa City Council.

Checks and balances are purposely built into the California and U.S. constitutions by splitting governance into three equal branches: the executive, legislative and judicial branches. They can blow the whistle on each other.

At present, Costa Mesa is a general law city, where the council by itself provides all three functions of government. Any checks and balances are provided by state of California laws and the threat of the next election. This arrangement has generally worked, given the limited amount of power past councils have had.

If voters approve a charter though, Costa Mesa will be making up its own laws for the most part. One effect of this will be to slip the state law restraints from the council's powers.

This will hand an incredible amount of new power to a council, which will not face the usual limitations from state legislation.

To help rein in this concentration of power, the proposed Costa Mesa charter should include a court of review. The court would be part of the new government of Costa Mesa. It would provide judicial review of legislative and executive acts of the council.

The court of review would have jurisdiction only over the council's actions. It would be the arbiter of whether or not those actions comport with the provisions of the charter and the other written laws and policies of the city.

The court could be established, for example, with three judges elected by Costa Mesa residents, and holding office for six years in staggered terms. The court would sit only as needed, when a petition for review is filed.

Suitable compensation could be established for their part-time work. The city would provide a venue, materials and equipment for the court's operation, and fund it as needed.

This court is necessary to supplement the cumbersome and expensive routes of appeal that have been traditionally available — lawsuits and the referendum. A more rapid response is needed, in case a council greatly empowered by a charter succumbs to dangerously unfettered activism, as Lord Acton warned in 1887.

Tom Egan

Costa Mesa


District, prepare for 2017 New Year's Day

An advance reminder to the scheduler for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District who chose to have a school day the same as a nationally observed holiday. In January 2017, New Year's Day again falls on a Sunday. Don't make the same mistake as 2012!!

Steve Tumbarello

Newport Beach

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