Mission Viejo council considers Charter form of Government

We do not wish to become a charter cityIn one of my July 21st posts I mentioned Mission Viejo councilman Frank Ury promoting a change from General Law to a Charter form of city government. At that time I did not include  any reference to Lance MacLean but will add his involvement below. Although I had planned to sit on the full story until after all candidates file their papers with the City Clerk, I am going to share this proposal today.

My first discussion of Charter cities dates back to a Jan 1998 property rights activists trip to Sacramento to support Assemblyman Tom McClintock on AB 923. One member of our group was from the city of Inglewood which has a Charter form of government. She mentioned their city council paying themselves $100,000  salaries.  Brad Morton, Editor of the Mission Viejo Dispatch, was in our group and remembers that discussion.
At some point after that SAC. hearing I spoke to our first Mayor Norm Murray who told me we should never consider changing to a Charter form of government

Fast forward to the Sept. 21st 2009 meeting of the MV city council where you will find Agenda item #25 from Frank Ury relating to the state securitization of our redevelopment bank account.  Here is how you can fall into the Pandora’s box trap.

After a few minutes in which Frank relates his discussion, of state borrowing of city redevelopment funds and mandated affordable housing, with other elected officials.
Frank then opens the item for council discussion.

Trish Kelley begins “when I spoke to Mr. Curley in the past he said there would have to be a legislative change. If there’s way to do this I think we need to go Gung Ho and get it done.”

City attorney Curley responded to Frank’s suggestion of a legislative change.

“If you don’t strike when the iron’s hot you’re forever lost. So.You’re on a role just keep rolling.”

When its his turn to speak Lance MacLean says:
“I’ve got a question. The way we are constituted as a city..currently we are a General Law City. Are Charter cities immune from state raids?”

City attorney Curly responds stating “some parts you are immune, some the legislature puts in and says this expressly applies to Charter cities and some are of course tweeners. You spend a lot of time arguing over, but council, and you have touched on what is a very current effort by, I would call it, the more savvy, wrong word, some more cutting edge activity. Buena Park recently went Charter. It lets you control a lot of your finances to some degree. How you do your bidding, how you allocate your project out, bid splitting. There are a lot of local benefits that come from home rule where you are finally, to a large extent, a peer with the state rather than right now where you are a General Law City which means you are subject entirely to whatever the state dictates. You have no autonomy”.
Lance. “Would it be too much to ask colleagues to ask what it would take, the pro’s and con’s, what it would take, and the cost of going from General Law to Charter?”

Bill Curley. “We’ve got a lot of that real fresh from our friends in Buena Park. We represent Buena Park so I am very familiar with all their product. So we can move that pretty quickly.
Frank. “I think we have the heads nodding.”
“How will that help us with Charter Vs General Law?”
Bill. “To a large extent it would help, not entirely, but much of what we’re talking about, where they’re playing games with our redevelopment funds and the securitization, by crossing over in some degree into the redevelopment agency world.

I love the next line from Frank that he has used before. Colleagues. “Having talked to enough people in the community about this they understand.” Mr. Ury. Which residents? How many? Are we to simply accept whatever you tell us?

He later states “this is what we are elected to do. This is what we are hired to do by the people of Mission Viejo.”

I am not surprised that the Minutes of that Agenda Item do not mention Lance’s recommendation to explore a Charter city nor the encouragement by our hired city attorney based on his firms achievement in  Buena Park.

How many of us where present when the prior Bell city council had their discussions in changing to a Charter City? We have no idea of what major concern was expressed which led to their change which is all over the media. If you check the demographics between our two cities we might see upscale Mission Viejo headed the same way unless we can cut them off at the pass on Nov. 2nd.

Here is where we open Pandora’s box. While we commence discussion with good intentions, that at the end of the day may not be enforceable against future Sacramento securitization activities, we use that “solution” to open the door for other abuses. Case in point is the ability for members of the council to vote $100,000 salaries for themselves. As it is  Trish Kelley charges taxpayers every time there is an event in our city that she attends be it a spelling bee or our Christmas Party. She has already told us that she is in the office frequently which would indicate a desire for an increase in compensation.

Another issue that I read in material from the city of Buena Park is the power that “eliminates requirement to award contracts to the lowest bidder.” I will not engage in any trash talking on this post but I will address another concern on bidding. The city attorney touched on the latitude of our bidding process in his comments.

Perhaps someone will investigate how we can award over 30 no-bid contracts to RJM design in the past four and a third years totaling over $1,100,000. In time I may be submitting that no bid contract activity to the Orange County Grand Jury.

What is the expression used by carpenters? Measure twice and cut once?

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