Response to Taxpayer-Funded Mailer Part 2

 

What is a Charter?

The Flyer Says…

“Becoming a charter city allows voters to determine how their city government is organized and, with respect to municipal affairs, enact legislation different from that adopted by the state.”

The Truth Is:

Becoming a charter city allows voters to help determine how their city government is organized and, with respect to municipal affairs, this proposed charter gives the city council power to enact legislation different from that adopted by the State. The power goes to the City Council, not to the voters.

 

How many other cities have a charter?

The Flyer Says…

“Of California’s 478 cities, 120 of them are charter cities….”

The Truth Is:

Of California’s 478 cities, 358 of them are not charter cities.

 

The state allows a city charter to be put on the ballot by two methods: 1) through an elected 15-member charter commission and 2) through a city council. Why didn’t Costa Mesa use an elected charter commission?

The Flyer Says…

“Over the past 40 years, very few, if any, California cities have used an elected 15-member commission to draft a charter. The standard practice has been to draft a charter through the City Council. Sometimes this is done with the help of a council-appointed committee.”

The Truth Is:

Looking at cities that have voted on charters in the last 15 years, 10 of 24 such cities used charter commissions or committees. Newport Beach’s charter was drafted by an elected 15 member commission. Regardless of what other cities have done, Costa Mesa was free to choose either approach. Citizens have requested the City Council to allow election of a charter commission, but that request was denied without discussion.

 

What about current City ordinances and policies? Will the charter wipe them out?

The Flyer Says…

“No. Unless an ordinance or policy is in conflict with a charter provision, all Costa Mesa ordinances and policies will remain in effect.”

The Truth Is:

BUT any ordinance could then be changed with a vote of only 3 Council Members – now or in the future.

 

Aside from allowing for local control, how does the proposed charter differ from our current laws governing Costa Mesa?

The Flyer Says…

“In short: A) As proposed, the Costa Mesa charter does not require the City to pay prevailing, or union, wages on projects that rely only on local funds, B) Any increase in employee pension benefits, outside of cost of living adjustments, must be approved by the majority of Costa Mesa voters, C) Public employee association, or union. dues cannot be automatically deducted from city employee paychecks if that money will be used for political activities.

The Truth Is:

The charter does not, and will not, resolve any current pension issues. ALSO:
A) The charter says: “The City is exempt from the provisions of all California statutes regulating public contracting and purchasing, except as provided by this Charter, City ordinance, or by agreement approved by the City Council.” (Charter Section 401) That means contracts may be issued and purchases may be made without going through the normal bidding process. The only protection against favoritism in contracting and purchasing is the vote of three Council members.
B) Three members of the City Council may vote to change rules regarding elections.
C) Three members of the City Council may vote to change the qualifications for future City Council candidates. The memo from the City Attorney, dated January 26, 2012, says the proposed charter wording “gives the City the option to change candidate qualifications in the future if desired.”
D) Three members of the City Council may vote to change rules regarding planning and zoning decisions and hearings.
E) Anything else not included in the charter and not prohibited by state law may be changed by a vote of three Council members.

They claim, “everything in this charter is protected and if not included, would be controlled under general law”,  but  Section 103 of the proposed charter gives the City Council open-ended power.  Section 103 stipulates that enumeration of any particular power in the Charter is not be held to exclude powers not specifically enumerated.  Even where the charter enumerates a protection for the residents, the charter includes caveats such as “unless changed by ordinance or resolution of the council.”

What if the City Council wants to enact or change an ordinance under the new charter?

The Flyer Says…

“The City Council would have to go through the same set of procedures as any general law city.”

The Truth Is:

NOT TRUE as the charter is currently drafted. In the June 5 draft, Section 300 of the charter is not the same as state law.

 

I keep hearing Costa Mesa has proposed a “cut-and-paste” charter. What does that mean and is it bad?

The Flyer Says…

“Many California charters contain similar language because the provisions have survived legal challenges to their validity. Costa Mesa’s proposed charter uses that familiar language because it is legally tested, and has worked well for other charter cities.”

The Truth Is:

Some of the provisions of the proposed charter are not similar to provisions used in other cities’ charters, and some “common” language is currently under challenge before the state Supreme Court. Specifically:
1. Other cities’ charters do not contain language limiting employee associations’ right to mail requests for contributions to their members’ homes, so this has not been tested by the courts.
2. Provisions allowing cities to refuse to pay prevailing wages (even for locally-funded projects) have been challenged, and the case is currently pending before the California Supreme Court.
3. Other sections contain controversial language that could be challenged in Costa Mesa, as well. If more time were available to draft this charter,the language could be more thoroughly evaluated and legal exposure, with ensuing legal expenses, could be minimized.

 

What are the checks and balances on a charter city?

The Flyer Says…

“In addition, any attempt to create new ordinances or amend current ones is subject to the same public process that the city currently must follow as a general law city.”

The Truth Is:

NOT TRUE as the charter is currently drafted. In the June 5 draft, the charter provisions governing adoption of ordinances are not the same as state laws governing general law cities. More importantly, this charter also puts at risk the most important checks and balances provided under state law: those exercised by the voters. The proposed charter would allow three members of the City Council to change the rules regarding elections plus establish the qualifications for their own successors.

For example, the California Public Contract Code has protections under State Law that protect taxpayers in a general law city.  Section 100(d) of the Code states that State Law has the objective “to eliminate favoritism, fraud, and corruption in the awarding of public contracts.”

 

What about the estimates under Charter Notes on Page 2 and 3?

The Flyer Says…

“Without having to pay prevailing wage, the City estimated it would have saved $1.8 million on the recent $20 million expansion and renovation of the police department”

“On five other recent projects funded only with local funds, the City estimated it could save between 2.4% and 15.4% on labor costs without using prevailing wage.  The total cost savings is estimated to be $3.4 million.”

The Truth Is:

No staff report, or a document located on the City website, or a document with the city seal on it verifies these numbers.

Now that the California Supreme Court has interpreted the payment of labor is strictly a municipal affair, the charter provision would allow the city to pay below-prevailing wages on projects funded solely with city funds.  About 80% of city projects, including all major projects, are funded with State and/or Federal grants; these would require payment of prevailing wages.  Whether payment of below-prevailing wages on the remaining 20% of projects would save money and, if so, how much, is a matter of debate.

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