COSTA MESA — Continuing with his plan to overhaul the city's structure, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer on Tuesday will ask his peers on the City Council to begin the process of making Costa Mesa a charter city with its own set of laws and regulations.
But council critics say forming a charter city is a way to avoid the lawsuits over the decision to outsource 40% of city employees.
Righeimer said the charter that will be presented to the public is just scaffolding for what Costa Mesa residents would want to see in their own charter, or city constitution.
"What we're putting out is a first draft and a bunch of ideas to go to the community," he said. "This is a draft for the public to beat up."
A charter allows a city to set many of its own laws as they relate to local elections and public contracts. Costa Mesa is currently what is known as a general law city, which relies on state laws. Several cities in Orange County, including neighboring Newport Beach, are governed by charters.
"When all is said and done, why would you not have local control and have local residents decide how to spend their money instead of Sacramento?" Righeimer asked. "It's all about local control. Period."
A ballot measure approved a simple majority of voters would be required to make Costa Mesa a charter city. Righeimer hopes to get a measure on the state's June 5 primary ballot.
According to the California League of Cities, there are two ways for Costa Mesa to form a charter: have the City Council create it, or have a commission of citizens write it.
The former idea could ensure the charter would get on June's ballot, the latter would push it back because commission members would have to be elected, Righeimer said.
The Orange County Employees Assn. is skeptical of leaving the charter language in council hands.
"The City Council has repeatedly demonstrated that they don't listen to what the public says," said OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir. "How can the public have any faith when they say they'll listen in making their charter?"
Some council critics have said the charter idea is a way for the city to avoid litigation over a plan to outsource many city jobs to the private sector.
The Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. is suing the city over its attempt to outsource more than 40% of city services, which they claim is illegal because Costa Mesa is a general law city.
The charter could remove the legal issues, Righeimer said.
"It's just Chapter 2 of the outsourcing fight," Muir said. "These city councilmen want to rewrite the rules to their advantage with no checks and balances."
At the council meeting, the public will have a chance to comment on the charter draft and see a schedule of eight to 10 public meetings the council wants to host leading up to a possible June vote.
By the end of the 10th meeting, a charter should be taking shape, Righeimer said.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.