Costa Mesa Council Expected to Approve Charter for Ballot

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After three months of contentious discussion over a proposed city charter, the Costa Mesa City Council is expected Tuesday night to formally place the document on the June primary ballot.

The council majority is spearheading the charter push in the midst of a legal challenge against its efforts to remake the city’s government largely through outsourcing.

A charter is essentially a local constitution that gives city governments greater authority over some local affairs. Costa Mesa’s proposed charter would, among other provisions:

  • Remove limitations on outsourcing.
  • Prohibit union dues collected by the city from being spent on political activities.
  • Require a citywide vote in order to increase workers’ retirement benefits.
  • Prevent the city from requiring payment of state-mandated “prevailing wages” on construction projects unless they’re required by law or approved by the City Council.

The Republican council majority insists that a charter adoption is needed to get the city’s financial house in order as soon as possible.

The pace and approach of Costa Mesa’s charter process has drawn criticism from some residents, who want a citizens commission instead of the City Council in charge of drafting the document. Some residents have also charged that the city’s official mailer on the charter contains false and incomplete information.

The council majority, meanwhile, has shown no signs of changing its plans.

A recent Voice of OC review of California cities that adopted charters during the past decade shows that several approved them without a charter commission, though residents had significantly less effect on the process in cities that didn’t use commissions.

The vote is planned to take place near the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at Costa Mesa City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

— NICK GERDA

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