The Costa Mesa City Council held an emergency meeting on Aug. 9. According to Deputy City Attorney Kimberly Barlow, the meeting was needed because the ballot description that had been submitted to the Registrar of Voters on Aug. 1 did not include edits from the July 31 public meeting, when the City Council approved a supposedly final version of the charter and ballot description.
The biggest public concern at the meeting was the deletion, from the July 31 council-approved ballot description, of the words "and no-bid contracts permitted in certain cases for municipal."
This deletion was of concern for two reasons. First, there was no change to the charter itself in this regard, and so the charter still allows for no-bid contracts.
Second, because most voters will only read the ballot description, and not the entire charter, before they vote, they would not know that the charter allows for no-bid contracts, which are viewed negatively by many people.
Later in the meeting, Barlow surprisingly said that the ballot description submitted on Aug. 1 did not contain the no-bid contract language. She said she didn't know how this happened.
I got the Aug. 1 ballot description submission from the registrar and confirmed that the no-bid contracts wording had already been removed. So this means that what was voted on July 31 was not what was submitted to the registrar on Aug. 1. Assuming this was not intentional, this is yet another significant mistake. (Remember the missed filing deadline for putting the charter on the June ballot.)
The council apparently knows that the no-bid contracts allowed by the charter will be viewed negatively by voters, who may vote against it for that reason. As a result, they have removed the words from the one document that is most likely to be read by voters.
In the last part of the meeting Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer asked Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz some leading questions about no bid contracts. The questions and answers attempted to confuse the issue by explaining that so called no-bid contracts currently undergo an informal bidding process. This discussion did nothing to alter the fact that the proposed charter allows for truly no-bid contracts.
Considering all of the above, can we really trust these councilmen to be honest with the residents of Costa Mesa about the proposed city charter and to effectively manage the city?
I think not. In November, I suggest we replace the incumbents involved in this mess and we put an end to this risky and error-prone charter by voting no on charter Measure V.
CHARLES MOONEY, a City Council critic, lives in Costa Mesa.