I had the honor of serving with City Council candidate Harold Weitzberg along with 11 other residents of Costa Mesa on the Charter Committee. Weitzberg was always prepared and gave valuable input for consideration, even though he was firmly against the concept of a charter from the beginning.
After spending close to a year researching, discussing and debating, the committee ended up voting 10 to 1 to adopt the proposed charter it had created, and it was on to City Council for review. And now the council has decided to put it on the ballot in November.
The 37 items that commentary writer Weitzberg references (including his own recommendations) were all reviewed, vetted and thoroughly discussed. Ultimately they received consensus — or they did not. There was no predetermined outcome.
In his commentary, Weitzberg argues that there is no compelling reason to change our form of government from general law. I respectfully disagree. Governing of municipal affairs by local elected officials and local residents brings greater taxpayer benefit, greater flexibility and greater public input.
Consensus was achieved to advance a charter that gives us home rule. The committee felt that Costa Mesa can manage its issues better than Sacramento and outside interest groups can. The committee’s final document combines the best of state law and gives future city councils the flexibility of home rule.
For example, state law controls salaries of city council members. Our charter adopts the state law controlling these salaries. As a result, the excesses in the city of Bell will never happen in Costa Mesa. With a charter, Costa Mesa can govern its municipal personnel affairs and municipal contracting services. These are two examples that differ from current state law.
I am optimistic about Costa Mesa’s ability to govern itself. Government fails when residents stop paying attention. We have an informed electorate and along with our local news publications, we see our council chamber and community centers full of people who wish to participate.
We, as citizens, thankfully have the right to participate and vote and can keep or change policies as a result, whether under general law or charter. But I would argue it is a lot easier to affect change locally with a charter than it is to look toward Sacramento for solutions to local issues.
I certainly appreciate and respect Weitzberg’s opinions, but as he knows, I see things a bit differently than he does when it comes to our city’s future. I see true benefits of having a local charter form of government.
Costa Mesa resident BRETT ECKLES served on the city’s Charter Committee.