Commentary: Charter changes are indeed a 'big deal'

Re. "Measure EE addresses lawsuits, red lights (Oct. 14): The above-referenced article starts out with, "Those are the highlights in an otherwise dry legal document that asks voters to make 38 changes to the 58- year-old city charter." And then, it states, "Deciding the fate of 38 constitutional amendments sounds like a big deal."

Well, it is a big deal, for the City Council and staff to virtually rewrite our charter in five one-and-one-half hour charter update committee working meetings, in particular since extensive modifications were made to the charter just two years ago.

About three-fourths of the article consisted of dialogue with the proponents discussing the issues without an opportunity for equal response from the opponents.

Councilman Keith Curry now admits the city does not and has not for years (if ever) published the final 200-page audited comprehensive annual financial report in the newspaper at a (current) cost of between $13,000 and $18,000, although that does not stop him from touting this completely fictitious cost savings.

What is apparent is that the opponents never believed that the audit was published at the end of the year, nor did the charter require such. Putting it online is much more appropriate. Curry has implied elsewhere that the opponents want the city to publish the audit, and of course this is completely untrue. The charter simply requires publication of a "financial statement."

That is not the audit that Curry is waving around. The staff advises the most recent publication cost was $114.

On the red light camera issue, Curry now says that prohibition of red light cameras could be handled by ordinance. But he adds that it needs to be in the charter to prevent future councils from adopting red-light cameras. And then, he says, referring to the City Council: "You never know who's going to be sitting up there two years from now." One wonders who would buy into this kind of rationale.

Later in the article Curry says that Measure EE will make compensation "more transparent."

Yet it continues to list only the expense allowance (per council member) of $14,700 per year to be renamed "compensation for service" with nary a mention of the $19,045 per year, in addition, for health and pension benefits they claim to be entitled to.

If you review just a few of the proposed changes to the charter that are found in the sample ballot, you will see many complexities, but who has the time to go through 38 amendments in one shot? Would you sign a contract without reading or understanding it?

The devil is in the details, but that's exactly what our constitution consists of: important details.

So 38 charter amendments really are a big deal, and the residents should have had the opportunity to vote on them individually or in groups, as staff presented them to the Update Committee. Show your outrage at being deprived your right to a proper vote: Vote no on Measure EE.

NOVELL HENDRICKSON lives in Newport Beach.

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