Resident Tom Egan told the Council, “Giving you (the council members) the power in this charter would be like giving a teenager the keys to the liquor cabinet and the keys to the car at the same time. You people without any grown up supervisor scares me.”
Among the many concerns raised by speakers were:
- The importance of checks and balances that are part of being a General Law city in respect to not just this (monarchy) city council but future city councils.
- The prevailing wage. Apparently our esteemed council thinks that robbing workers of decent living wages and benefits will “save this city millions.” That subject was actually the one talked about most. One speaker, Mark Fowler, couldn’t have put it more clearly when he said, “Don’t these people deserve benefits and pensions?” Many spoke of the cost to the city, state and federal government, as well as workers themselves, when workers are not paid decent wages and provided benefits and forced to go on public assistance. Pat Kelly, who addressed the council referred to it as “cost shifting.” ”If you want to know what happens to people with no benefits, just go to The Hoag Emergency room and look into how many people show up there with no insurance that are being treated.”
- Many citizens stated that they feel the city is running fine without being a charter city, and wonder why the change? Righeimer made it clear by taking up the first hour of the meeting reading the latest draft of the charter and blatantly blaming the union for being the reason for the rush to get the charter to the vote. He quoted a city council member from Elk Grove who he had said he’d spoken with about converting to a Charter City, ”It is the job of the union to delay and destroy the charter.” He wasn’t shy in stating that over riding the union and outsourcing city services was the motivation for the council making this move. He complained that as a General Law city, the union has been able to hold the lay offs up in court and that it would be “years and years of going back to court to get it done.” He didn’t mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars of city money being spent to “get it done.” I have no doubt that the Banning Ranch project and 19th street bridge are some their priorities as well.
- Why the rush? That was another big question asked all night. Several attendees said that they are NOT in favor of a Charter City at all, but if it is to be looked at, they want more time. There is only one more meeting in which the citizens will be allowed to make public comments, and feel that is not enough. Many also said that they wanted a Charter that is constructed not by one or two council members but by a committee which would include a group of nonpartisan citizens.
- Nearly all called for the council to wait until the November to give the citizens more time to study the issue. In addition, as more than one speaker pointed out, voter turn out for a special election versus and general election is always much lower, and this issue is important enough to have both informed voters and the maximum turn out at the polls.
- Several citizens expressed concern that there are only 2 meetings for public comment, but also that the council would not take any of these suggestions and concerns under consideration as they so far have not done on nearly every issue the citizens have come to them with. This manifested itself at the end of the meeting when council member Wendy Leece made motions to form a Charter Committee instead of having Righeimer as the sole member of his own little committee, and a motion to delay the election on The Charter until November. In spite of all but 3 speakers asking for these things, if not to scrap the proposal entirely, the council voted 3 to 1 against those motions.
After the speakers were finished, the citizens were treated to a lecture from Righeimer on how government works. In a classic Freudian slip, while explaining why it makes perfect sense that the council should have ultimate power and make decisions for the city without concern for the wishes of the citizens, he said, “That’s how a Republican….Republic works.” Oooops!
Please check the city website for the date and time of the next public comments meeting on the Charter City conversion and the schedule of meetings were the final draft will be completed. The issue will be on the June ballot. If you are unable to make the meeting, you can watch it on Time Warner, Channel 24 or streaming live on your computer. There is a link on the city website, “Weigh in on the Charter” where you can post your comments on this issue. I encourage all citizens of Costa Mesa to do so. Then get out and vote in June and November.