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Daily Pilot

Measure V trailing in early returns

Costa Mesa's charter initiative was behind by 16.8 points at 10:30 p.m.

By Lauren Williams

10:06 AM PST, November 7, 2012

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The line to vote at the Lighthouse Church on Costa Mesa's Westside stretched to the sidewalk Tuesday afternoon, many residents with election materials in hand.

Shirlee Blalack, a resident since the city's 1953 incorporation, said she felt passionate about the city's proposed charter, Measure V, on the ballot.

"I want the charter because it's good for Newport, it's good for Irvine, it's good for Huntington Beach," Blalack said of neighboring cities with documents that amount to local constitutions. "Why not?"

Earlier, 22-year resident Steve Chan stood in line ready to cast his ballot. He said he supported the incumbents' policies on the homeless, but he was against the charter championed by the "3Ms" -- Councilmen Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan and Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Chan was voting for the 3Ms. In fact, he did not say who he was voting for.

"Too much controversy," Chan said of V, adding that the current council majority could take a stab at a charter down the road.

As of press time, the measure trailed by more than 3,000 ballots with 41.6% of Costa Mesa voters in favor of the measure and 58.4% against. Even so, the race was too close to call with only 38 of 71 precincts reporting.

The proposed charter would change Costa Mesa from a general law city to one with increased local control, advocates claim. Included in the charter is a provision that would exempt the city-funded projects from paying prevailing wages mandated by the state — an element that has drawn fire from organized labor.

Just down the street on Fair Drive, Kurt Earl stood in front of City Hall after casting his ballot there.

He said he opposed Measure V, but felt apathetic toward the council candidates. He went to a debate about six weeks ago and formed an idea about them then.

"They came across as a bunch of bickering people," the three-year resident said. "It's hard to differentiate between them."

The charter's architect, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, estimated the document followed 60% of existing general law.

After preliminary results tallied Tuesday evening, Righeimer said he heard the message the community sent him through their ballots.

"I think through this whole process we heard the community loud and clear," Righeimer said.

"The community wants more of a committee-type process," he said. "And that's what I'll be bringing forward, to get the community (involved in the writing) of the charter and to make sure any of the concerns and safeguards are put in the charter to make the public feel comfortable."

Righeimer has said the charter would allow the city to get its financial house in order. The charter's opponents argued there wasn't enough public input and it would leave the city vulnerable to abuses seen in cities such as Bell.

Organized labor spent the most to defeat the 10-page charter, chipping in almost $500,000 to its campaign.

The city originally planned to have the charter placed on the June ballot, but a snafu in filing paperwork with the Orange County Registrar of Voters pushed the measure to the November election.

Scott Porter said he waited nearly an hour to cast his vote in favor of Measure V at the Costa Mesa library near Lions Park.

By his own admission, Porter is "apolitical" but said the charter would "help us with our spending."

At Fire Station 5 near the city's police station, Ida Monarch said she cast her vote against the charter.

"I just think it puts too much power in too few hands," she said.

Just outside the outpost off Vanguard Way, City Council candidate John Stephens and school board Trustee Katrina Foley sat on a bench, looking over spreadsheets.

"I'm feeling fine," Stephens said. "It's been a busy day at work."

Foley, a former councilwoman, said she expected a close election and big turnout over Measure V, the city's ballot initiative that would enact a city charter. The two attorneys have campaigned against it.

Skosh Monahan's Irish pub, where supporters of the 3Ms and Measure V gathered, was boisterous just before early election results came out at 8 p.m. Seated at a table, Planning Commissioner Rob Dickson said the charter would give the council the "ability to outsource common sense stuff."

"Where it makes sense to keep it in house, we keep it in house," Dickson said.

Members of Costa Mesans for Responsible Government rallied at the Westside Bar & Grill.

"The residents that are here all worked really hard to defeat Measure V," said community activist Sue Lester. She said whether or not the charter passes or CM4RG candidates win, the group reached between very different factions within the city.

"In that respect I was part of a win," Lester said.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30