The informational meeting regarding the male members of the city council’s scheme to turn Costa Mesa into a Charter City felt like a sales meeting for their proposal. The agenda stated that the presenter would be Interim Communications Director, Bill Lobdell, but Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch did the presentation for the crowd. Bill did take his place at the information table assigned to explain the charter election process.
The speaker portion of the meeting consisted of Tom Hatch explaining that this was strictly an informational meeting, and not a question and answer or debate type meeting. He then read a portion from The City Council Meeting Agenda Report and named several cities that are currently charter cities. Mr. Hatch stated that “the pros and cons” of a General Law City vs Charter City were laid out in the 18 page agenda report. Several citizens verbally confronted Mr. Hatch either by speaking out or raising their hands and being called on by Mr. Hatch, which he politely tried to answer briefly. He did make it clear though, that his time at the podium was not intended for Q&A, and agreed to either speak with folks individually or they could get answers at the information tables.
Needless to say the minute he stepped away from the podium, he was swarmed by citizens with questions and concerns, all but one were what I would describe as hostile and suspicious. It seems that the the people of Costa Mesa have had their trust in the members of council shaken, and that’s putting it lightly. I felt sorry for Mr. Hatch last night, but then again, that’s why he makes the BIG bucks.
Information tables were set up in the back of the room where citizens could go and get their questions answered. Each table had a large laminated copy of the City Council Agenda Report that they were set up to discuss with concerned attendees.
Basic Information and Facts was covered by an Orange County attorney representing The Association of California Cities, Michael Houston. Costa Mesa Deputy City Attorney Robert Khuu hosted the General Law vs. Charter City Differences table. Bill Lobdell hosted the Charter Election Process table. The table set aside for Charter Suggestion/Comments was hosted by Tom Hatch and Tom Duarte stood to represent the city regarding The Proposed Costa Mesa Charter table.
Through out the meeting many folks were heard asking, “Where are the council members?” I spotted and spoke with Wendy Leece who said that Tom Hatch had told council members not to attend, but she said, “I thought, I’m coming. I’m not breaking any laws!” I also saw Steve Mensinger lurking around the edge of the room before the meeting but did not see him during or after the meeting. I suspect Tom wanted to avoid ugly confrontations between citizens and council members, but since no one is really upset with Wendy, and most people are literally afraid of Mensinger, I guess Wendy and Steve weren’t concerned that there would be any outbursts. I didn’t see any.
I think it’s important that anyone concerned about this issue get a copy of The City Council Agenda Report for more information on what it means for our city if it becomes a Charter City. Keep in mind that it is compiled by the very people who’s goal it is to convert Costa Mesa to a Charter City, so don’t expect much of a “fair and balanced” collection of information.
I found it interesting that they included the names of all the cities that are Charter Cities and how many in California, less than 1/4 of California cities, are Charter Cities As my dad used to say, “If all your friends jump off the bridge, does that mean you will too?”
In a nutshell, becoming a Charter City would give council members way more power than I personally want them to have. The section of the hand out, “General Law City v. Charter City” repeatedly makes references as to how “the city” or “charter” can enact ordinances, establish procedures, allow public financing for election campaigns, have full authority to contract services with no bid contracts, and may establish council member’s salaries. I believe that what they mean by “the city,” is the council members not the citizens. The fiscal review states, “If the proposed charter is placed on the June 2012 ballot, the the Registrar of Voters estimates the cost to consolidate to be in the range of $97,500 to $123,500.”
Our city council has made a show of ignoring and even bullying their constituents. Adding to my concern is the rushed manner in which the switch to changing to a Charter City is being proposed. There will only be two more public meetings on this issue before it goes to a vote in June of this year. Those meetings will be on January 10th at 7:00 p.m. and February 14th at 7:00 p.m. Please visit the city website for more information and click the “weigh in on proposed city charter” link to leave a comment. Copies of all hand outs from last night’s meeting can be found at City Hall. If you live in Costa Mesa get yourself one ASAP.
Lastly, I think it’s pretty obvious that this is another ploy by the members of city council who consider themselves royalty, Mensinger,Righeimer, Bever and Monahan, to get rid of the city’s union employees and give themselves even more power in making decisions that concern us all. Even if we could trust them to do what it right for our city, we will be stripped of important checks and balances. The fact is we can not and should not trust them to do what is right for the city, and we better move fast to avoid being trampled under their boots.