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Daily Pilot

Righeimer wants to try for another charter

Councilman says he may shoot for 2014 primary election to put a measure before voters again. He would form a citizens' committee to give input.

By Bradley Zint

5:34 PM PST, November 7, 2012

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In the wake of Measure V's defeat, Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer said Wednesday that he hopes to form a citizens committee that can draft another charter initiative.

He hopes the committee can hash out new charter language in time for the 2014 primary election.

Critics argued that he should have sought more input from residents.

"There was a real concern about the community being involved in the charter process," he said.

Righeimer drafted Measure V, borrowing from other cities that have their own municipal constitutions in place.

"We didn't have any time before," Righeimer added. "There was no time for a committee, and now there is."

Righeimer said it was too early to say when the ball will get rolling for another charter effort, but that he didn't want it to be rushed.

"We want to make sure everybody's on board … that everybody feels comfortable about the process," he said.

After months of debate and contentious discussion, voters on election day turned down Measure V by a wide margin. About 59%, or 16,008 voters, opposed the initiative, according to Orange County Registrar of Voters data released Wednesday. About 41%, or 11,013 voters, were in favor.

The measure would have enacted a home-rule city constitution for Costa Mesa, but critics argued it would give too much power to the current council majority and was not written with community input.

"I think the residents of Costa Mesa took a resounding stand against the devastating impacts of the council's attempt to advance their political agenda at all costs," said Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., which, along with other organized labor groups, was a major financial backer in the effort to defeat the measure.

Though unions have pumped the most money into stopping the charter, Costa Mesans for Responsible Government (CM4RG) spent 11 months trying to block the charter as well.

The grass-roots group, which doesn't accept funds from unions or employee associations, is comprised of Costa Mesa residents of all parties and is mostly funded locally.

The group's president, Robin Leffler, didn't credit Measure V's failure with organized labor or their mail literature, some of which she said wasn't helpful.

"I give credit to the intelligence of Costa Mesa voters ... We had to work hard to keep the focus on what we felt were the issues," she said. "We wanted people to read the charter for themselves ... [CM4RG] strove to be accurate, to let people know it was a bad charter that they should be aware of."

"Scare tactics don't usually work well," she added. "Both sides tried that, and I would think those were not really influential unless they were also very factual."

Councilman Steve Mensinger, who advocated for the charter as one tool toward financial reform, said with the results, he "heard the voters loud and clear, and I want to make sure we look at what the next steps are and focus on the tools that will help us survive as a city."

He is taking into consideration a common belief that residents liked the idea of charter, just not the one on Tuesday's ballot.

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint