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Costa Mesa's Measure V controversial with residents

A sign promoting Measure V is seen in this undated file photo.
October 31, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Measure V, if approved, would allow Costa Mesa to become a charter city and to adopt its own constitution.

But in the eyes of some, having that kind of status would not be a good thing.

"It's simply a way to get local control and save taxpayer dollars," said Costa Mesa councilman Jim Righeimer.

Those who support the measure say as it is now, the city has to hire municipal workers to do certain services and pay them state-mandated prevailing wage.

But as a charter city, measure supporters say more city-financed work could be outsourced and Costa Mesa could avoid paying union-level wages.

"If it passes we immediately save $4 million a year just right off the bat," said Righeimer.

Attorney John Stephens, who is running for city council, joined a lawsuit to stop the charter from being on the June primary ballot.

"The charter, if passed, would put the purse strings of the city in the hands of the City Council with virtually no accountability," Stephens said.

He said council members would gain unlimited power to pick the dollar value where contractors would have to formally bid.

"It also allows for no-bid contracts," Stephens said. "It eliminates protection against favoritism, fraud and corruption."

Righmer says the city can be trusted.

"It's a bit ridiculous to say the city of Costa Mesa, that has hundreds of people that come to city council meetings, could somehow hide something and get it done," he said.

Opponents cite the scandal in another charter city, Bell, where officials did not face state salary limits.

"We've put protections in our charter that says we will follow the state laws with regard to compensation, which Bell didn't do," Righmer said.

Measure V has struck the emotions of people in Costa Mesa. A city employee was recently caught on video, accused of destroying signs for Measure V. The district attorney is deciding whether to file charges.

Last year, the City Council voted to issue more than 200 pink slips -- more than 40 percent of the city's workforce. The union sued to stop any layoffs and to block the city from outsourcing positions.

"Even if there was some amount of taxpayer savings that is created by this charter, it's simply not worth the risk," said Stephens.

The architect of the charter says if the measure doesn't pass, they'll make any changes that residents feel are needed to put it on the next ballot.


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