Monday, December 10, 2018

Change Is In The Air - Look Out!

Last Tuesday evening the Costa Mesa City Council took on a very new look.  In the second segment of the meeting - held in the Senior Center because Council Chambers at City Hall is under significant renovation for the next few months - the results of the election held on November 6th was certified by the City Clerk, Brenda Green and were approved by the outgoing City Council.  Actually, only one person was "out-going" - termed out Jim Righeimer.  (Darn, there I go again, mentioning his name!)
Then, the winners were sworn in by former mayor Judge Karen Robinson - a very special treat.
Katrina Foley was elected as the City's very first directly-elected mayor, defeating former mayor Sandra Genis by a huge margin.  This result was satisfying in many ways.  Genis was part of the council majority that deposed Foley as mayor last year without ever giving anything resembling a satisfactory explanation.  Foley conducted an energetic campaign, taking the high road and not responding to the vicious attempts to defame her name and record with lies and fabrications.  Genis, on the other hand, barely conducted a campaign and her representatives consistently took the low road.
The results of the district voting, also for the very first time in City history, was also very satisfying.  The candidates supported by the Righeimer/Mensinger/Genis/Mansoor group all failed miserably at the ballot box.

Andrea Marr soundly defeated Mensinger supporter Brett Eckles in the District 3 race.

Manuel Chavez crushed the developer-favorite Michelle Figueredo-Wilson for the District 4 race.  Activist Steve Chan finished far, far off the pace.

Arlis Reynolds walloped former divisive mayor Allan Mansoor in the District 5 race.  Rebecca Trahan was also well off the pace in this race.
In the euphoria that followed the swearing-in ceremony, following the obligatory break so name plates could be properly placed and chairs juggled, Foley quickly re-conveined the meeting and nominated John Stephens for Mayor Pro Tem.  That motion passed, 6-0. It seems Mansoor was wandering around somewhere and was late returning to the dais, so the vote was taken without him.  I couldn't help but smile...
We learned a lot from this election.  We learned that the voters, once again, affirmed that they'd had enough of the Righeimer/Mensinger style of governance.  They emphatically made clear that the solid rejection of those practices by the passage of Measures Y and AA in 2016 was not a fluke.  They don't want to see rampant multi-story developments.  They don't want to see spot zoning to facilitate that kind of development.  They don't want to see our residential neighborhoods defiled by increased density as a result of the Small Lot Ordinance.  They don't want to see the saturation of Sober Living Homes in our city.  They DO want to see a City Council that considers the needs of the residents before the profits of developers and sober living operators.
After the first "Righeimer" segment there were still more than 200 people in the packed room at the Senior Center, who cheered enthusiastically when each result was announced and each new member was seated on the dais.  For the first time in my memory covering City issues I saw throngs of Latino faces attending a meeting.  This is understandable, because there are new three members of the City Council with Latino heritage.  And, interestingly, there are four women on the council for the very first time, too.
Righeimer hijacked the discussion of a District Voting plan more than two years ago and replaced the preferred choice as determined by several public meetings - Five Members - with his Six Districts/Directly-Elected Mayor plan and had it placed on the ballot using his majority, with Genis and Mansoor.  Unfortunately, nobody wrote an opposing opinion for the 2016 ballot, so it passed.  It's likely that Righeimer thought this scheme would help him retain control of the council when he was termed out this year.  It failed... yet another scheme of his that failed.
Mayor Foley had placed on the agenda a plan for an existing Finance vacancy to be converted to a Chief Of Staff, which would report directly to her, plus three part-time aids to be shared by the six council members, reporting to the Chief of Staff.  This proposal was, to say the very least, controversial.  The debate and public comment on this plan went on for nearly two hours, including a period when clearly-frustrated former mayor Sandra Genis mouthed to someone in the crowd, "What do I do now?",  before new Mayor Pro Tem Stephens offered a motion that changed the reporting relationship of that position... it will report to the City Manager.  That's a good compromise.  Now, if only we had a City Manager...  The recruitment for the four positions is now underway, with a closing date of Friday, December 14, 2018.
I understand what Foley had in mind, but she probably should have made this proposal sometime in January.  There are no more meetings planned until the first week of January.  Perhaps she simply could have floated the idea and had a full-blown discussion and a more thorough vetting - the City Attorney apparently did not vet this proposal for legality.   Resident Eleanor Egan, a former member of the City legal department and Planning Commission, was among those who spoke to this issue  and advised against the proposal as presented.  Others spoke, as well, while Acting City Manager Tammy Letourneau looked on.   But, as I mentioned above, the issue passed on a 5-2 vote, with Genis and Mansoor opposing.  The screamers at the Costa Mesa Public Square have been rabid on this issue for the past week.  We'll see how this goes.
And, since I mentioned the City Attorney, I found myself wondering just where Tom Duarte was Tuesday night.  His seat was capably filled by former City Attorney, Kimberly Hall Barlow.  It was nice to see her back, even if it was for one meeting.  You may recall she was replaced by Duarte several years ago.  There was speculation that it was because she pushed back on the Righeimer/Mensinger mob.  Duarte was more compliant.
I have every confidence that this new City Council will work together effectively.  Foley has demonstrated her leadership during 2017, before she was deposed by Genis, etal.  The new, young council members have demonstrated through their campaigns and prior public service that they have the education, intelligence and energy to make a significant contribution to the future of the City.  It's unclear what kind of contributions Mansoor and Genis will be making for the next two years, when their at-large seats expire.  One thing is sure... the 2020 local election in which we will again elect a mayor and three district council members - Districts 1, 2 and 6 - will be a doozy, as the forces of the Dark Side will certainly attempt to regain control. The next council meeting will be Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

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Saturday, December 08, 2018


In the first segment of what was supposed to be a short City Council meeting on Tuesday, December 4th, the council  recognized departing councilman Jim Righeimer.   The temporary meeting room at the Senior Center was packed.  There were so many people in attendance that you actually couldn't hear the bingo numbers being called next door.  There was seating for about 150 people and there were at least another 100 in the room.  Fire Chief Dan Stefano had to make some adjustments so there was sufficient lane space in case of an emergency.

Let me say right up front that I don't like Jim Righeimer.  I don't like the way he's steamrolled his way though the governance of our city. I don't like the way he lies about important issues.  I don't like the way he arrogantly ignored the views of the people and chided folks from the dais.  Nothing has changed my opinion since then.  In fact, circumstances only reinforced my opinion.  I've posted more than 800 entries that included references to him over the years.  In fact, in May of 2017 - the same day I posted what was supposed to be my final entry here - I posted specifically about Righeimer, in which I referred to him as the worst thing that ever happened to our city.  You can read that entry HERE

Since arriving in town as a shill for his friend (at that time) Dana Rohrabacher he's been a lightning rod for controversy.  Here are just a few things that come to mind that happened on his watch:
  • In a clear bit of political payback for his role as Dana Rohrabacher's Campaign Manager which offered support in his re-election campaign, Allan Mansoor appointed him to the Planning Commission six months after his arrival in Costa Mesa from Fountain Valley where he had been a failed politician.
  • As a Planning Commissioner (with no authority to do so) he braced officers during a DUI checkpoint, demanding they cease the operation and a meeting the next day to "talk about it".
  • He orchestrated stifling public comments by bifurcating them, with only the lucky first 10 being able to speak at the beginning of the meeting.  The remainder would have to wait to the end - sometimes after midnight.
  • Early on he unleashed his pit bull attorney friend, Mark Bucher, to try to keep me from writing about him.  When I told Bucher that I understood SLAPP lawsuits he crawled back under his rock.  Bullying is a way of life for Righeimer and his pals.
  • He and his cronies on the dais created a developer-friendly environment to the detriment of the residents.
  • Sober Living businesses flourished in residential neighborhoods.
  • Legal fees skyrocketed as his philosophy was to litigate rather than negotiate.
  • The Fire Association had to wait five years for a new contract.
  • Fairview Park was placed in jeopardy by the creation of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, stacked with pro-sports fields cronies.  Citizen participation quashed their attempts to pave over parts of that park and the group was eventually disbanded.
  • Twice he tried to change the form of government from a General Law City to a Charter City.  He refused to listen to the residents in both failed elections.
  • He placed issues on the ballot to oppose Measure Y, the Slow Growth Initiative and Measure AA, designed to protect Fairview Park.  The voters passed Y and AA overwhelmingly.
  • His hand-picked pal, Steve Mensinger, joined in the management chaos and, after several years of ham-handed governance, was clearly rejected by the voters when he ran for re-election in 2016.
  • He attempted to layoff more than 200 employees in what turned out to be a costly illegal move.  Young Huy Pham jumped to his death from the roof of City Hall when he learned he was to receive a layoff notice.
  • He tried to run the city like a business, changing the title of the City Manager to Chief Executive Officer and hamstrung Tom Hatch in the process.
  • He sued the Costa Mesa Police Association for alleged false accusations of DUI, a case that was settled years later with no culpability of the Association found.
  • He sponsored the Small Lot Ordinance which changed the character of residential neighborhoods.
  • He sponsored the Residential Overlays on both Harbor and Newport Boulevards, which are now being unraveled.
  • His pal, Scott Baugh, reaped huge profits as the sole provider of food booths at the bogus 60th Anniversary celebration.
  • His management philosophy of fear and intimidation chased more than 50 police officers away, to other jurisdictions or into early retirement.
  • Refused to let then-Chief Tom Gazsi recruit to fill vacancies for 8 months.
  • He folded-up the ABLE Helicopter program, the model for all municipal helicopter programs throughout the country.
  • He chided, intimidated and vilified residents who dared to speak in opposition to him during public meetings.
  • He and Baugh viciously attempted to dethrone their "friend", 30-year incumbent congressman  Dana Rohrabacher, in the 2018 Primary Election.  That failed and Rohrabacher eventually was soundly defeated by newcomer Harley Rouda, a Democrat.
  • There's no doubt in my mind that he orchestrated the ouster of Katrina Foley as mayor late in 2017, most likely to reduce her profile for her announced run for directly-elected mayor this year.  Genis was elected as mayor and Mansoor was chosen as Mayor Pro Team.  Foley's ouster fractured many personal and political relationships throughout the city.  That gets laid right at Righeimer's feet.  I'm sure he thought it would work in his favor.... another failure!
  • He hijacked the district voting issue a couple years ago and ramrodded the current Directly-Elected Mayor/Six Districts scheme, presuming that unpopular iteration would allow him and his mob to maintain control.  Again, another epic failure.  Instead, the results of the election produced an overwhelming sweep for candidates that supported Foley, who won the mayor's slot over Genis by a huge margin.  Districts 3, 4 and 5 all were won by really bright political newcomers and, astoundingly, all of Latino heritage.  The Righeimer mob - including two former mayors - were soundly thumped in each race.
  • Still lingering is question about the role he may have played in the recent curious departure of City Manager, Tom Hatch.  Contractually,  if Hatch was fired he was entitled to a severance allowance of 9 months pay, plus one month notice - 10 months pay total.  That's more than $200,000!  But, he was not fired.  Hatch departed quietly, like a thief in the night, the Friday BEFORE the council had a chance to consider his employment - an item on the council meeting agenda for the following Tuesday.  So, it certainly looks like he quit, and was not entitled to severance.  The question remains... was his "quitting" orchestrated by Righeimer and his majority on the council - Genis and Mansoor - and relayed to him the week before the meeting?  If so, it would certainly seem to look like a Brown Act violation took place.  I hold no animus toward Hatch, but I'm very disappointed in him for skulking out like that.
  • Through their arrogant disregard of what "the people" actually want, Righeimer and his OC GOP cronies have basically destroyed the party.  Orange County, formerly a bastion of conservative thinking, now has NO representation in the Congress and none in the State Assembly.  The State of California is now a "one party" state, which means fiscal hard times are ahead as tax-and-spend Democrats will have no check on their behavior.
There was an interesting mix of speakers addressing Righeimer's departure.  Several of the usual suspects - minions like Tom Pollitt, Chuck Perry and Jim Kerins - spoke in glowing terms.  Others, like Teresa Drain and Terry Koken were less kind.  Righeimer's daughter spoke of her father - a nice touch.  His wife, Ilene, also spoke in loving terms of him.
The "recognition" part of the meeting was a little herky-jerky.  At first then-Mayor Sandra Genis was going to give him a plaque on the dais, but then chose to step down closer to the audience.  This is my best photo of this segment of the meeting.
So, it is with absolutely no sadness that I bid Jim Righeimer "adios".  For a dozen years he systematically tried to ruin my town by making it a haven for his developer-buddies. He leaves behind a record of failure.  Every major initiative he tried failed.   He created chaos and negativity in my city and left the stench of his partisan policies lingering in the air.  I hope I never have to mention his name here again, unless it's to announce that he's put his $3 million country club mansion (that's what he said it was worth) on the market and is moving to Colorado to continue his prairie dog hugging.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018


Here we are, on Thanksgiving Day, 2018, and I’ve decided to write another entry on this blog.  I have more to say than I feel comfortable trying to squeeze into a Facebook post, but my Facebook buddies can read this because I’ll link to it. As an old coot, I’ve seen many of these Thanksgiving Days and every year I am, indeed, thankful for the wonderful things I have in my life.  I’ll list a few for you and maybe it will stir some memories of your own.
Right at the top, I’m grateful for my sweet, loving and VERY patient wife, Susie.  We’ve been married for 51 years - and counting - and through it all she has been at my side, supporting me as we waded through five relocations, a couple career changes and, for the last more than 15 years, as I tried to enlighten the public with my political (and other) observations.  She’s been there as health issues slapped me around.  She is the BEST thing that ever happened to me in my life - and I’ve had a LOT of great things happen to me!
I’m thankful for my family.  My parents, Bob and Dorothy West, were both hard-working people who did everything within their power to create a loving home for my two sisters and me.  Through their example we saw good, caring people.  Through their simple lesson of kindness and friendliness to others we learned a lesson that cannot be acquired through a costly education.  We learned how to treat people.  I learned to read sitting on my Mother’s lap at a very early age and that became foundational for everything I’ve done in life.  While working with my Father I saw, through his example, that through hard work, honesty and fairness a person  CAN succeed in business.  Although never wealthy, they found ways to permit us to do things that interested us - to help us to spread our wings.  I’m not sure we fully understood the sacrifices they made on our behalf until much later in life.  I miss them every day.
I’m thankful for my two younger sisters, Linda and Cheryll.  I’ve learned a lot as I watched them navigate life, though the good and bad times.  I admire both of them for their steadfastness, the choices they’ve made and their accomplishments wives, as single Moms and as mothers to three wonderful children and grandmothers to a half-dozen lovely grandkids.  I’m thankful for my elder step-sister, Margaret, but have lost touch with her and her boys.  Things happen like that.

I’m thankful for my aunts and uncles, all of whom have now passed, and for their kids - my cousins.  They all have played a major role in my life and I’m happy some of us still remain in contact.  I love them all.
I’m thankful for the wonderful family I became part of when I married my sweet Susie.  Her immigrant parents showed the world what newcomers to this country can accomplish.  They were smart, hard-working, kind, genteel, people who knew how to laugh and spread love to all around them.  Her three brothers are wonderful, successful men, who married wonderful women and who have become parents of nine great children and are now grandparents to eleven terrific kids.  I love them all.
I’m thankful for old friends and new.  As we have traveled through life we’ve met some wonderful folks, many of whom have become not just correspondents, but good friends. I still meet a few high school classmates for lunch quarterly, but those numbers are dwindling.  I still have lunch most weeks of the year with a man I’ve known since the first day of kindergarten.  We share great childhood memories and a love of sports, so there’s never a loss for things to chat about.  We will celebrate our 60th high school reunion next year, when we will gather with many of our classmates to, once again, share wonderful stories of our lives.  I’m very lucky to have remained in touch with so many of those folks who helped shape the early years of my life.  Sadly, there will be many fewer this year than in years past.

I’m thankful for those friends who have passed on.  Life and circumstance takes its toll… sometimes much too early.  Those of you who have followed this blog know that I lost my best friend for 57 years, Larry Moore, 15 years ago when he succumbed to injuries from a motorcycle accident.  As I sat at his bedside for the six weeks he was in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit in that Las Vegas hospital, trying to help the doctors attending him to make the decisions that would return him to us, I spent a lot of time contemplating our lives together.  I almost always smiled - sometimes laughed out loud - as I thought about our adventures together.  It was almost like a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn story.  And, of course, there were times when I had tears running down my cheeks, too.  Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my friend.

And, there were many others who were part of my life that have left us.  Each of those, whether friend or family, made an impression on me and my life and I’m thankful for them.

I’m thankful for the men with whom I shared a service commitment during the middle 1960’s, when the Vietnam War was heating up.  Some, like me, were draftees - summoned to serve due to the pending escalation of that war.  Others were volunteers, most of whom had signed up before Vietnam began to boil.  Together we shared the obligation of military service, even though it was not popular at the time.  I’m still in touch with some of them, or their surviving families, and am grateful for those relationships.
I’m thankful to those men who helped nurture and shape my life in the business world.  Most of them are now gone, but certainly not forgotten. They saw things in me that I did not, and advanced my career much more rapidly than I could have expected.  They taught me to trust my gut in many circumstances, just as they trusted theirs when it came to opportunities made available to me.  When I leaped, head-first, out of a safe business nest into the world of consulting, it was due  in great part, to the confidence they had in me.  It turns out they were right.
I’m thankful for those editors of local newspapers who published my early submissions and encouraged me to write more.  Many of them offered me a column, for which I have always been thankful, but always chose to respectfully decline.  I didn’t want to write on assignment.  I may occasionally submit something for them to consider and I’ll always be thankful if they print my thoughts.
I’m very thankful for the kind words and encouragement of those who felt my contributions to the community were worthy of recognition.  It’s heady stuff when the blog, the work product of a simple, old guy with too much time on his hands, is recognized as the best in Orange County - twice - and when the editors of the Daily Pilot chose to include my name of those 103 individuals they felt were “influential” in the community - several times.  
I’m thankful to the men and women who work for the City of Costa Mesa - many of whom have become my friends - for, not only their professionalism and steadfastness in bleak times, but for their recognition of my support for their efforts.  A high point of my life was the day they presented me with a plaque of gratitude.
I’m thankful, of course, for those of you who have read this blog over the years.  I’m thankful for those who chose to participate in the discussions here, to keep the dialogue going on important issues.  We’ve had some interesting discussions, where some of you tried to show me the error of my ways - usually unsuccessfully.   I will always be thankful for those discussions.
In recent years I’ve been very thankful for the doctors who now attend me more often than I would like.  I’ve worn a couple of them out and had to replace them with new guys.  Still, now that I’m well into my seventh decade of existence, it’s not unexpected for joints to need lubrication, critical parts to need tuning up and more attention paid to this old carcass in general.  I’m thankful for their patience as I ignore too many of their suggestions.  I’m working on that.
On that note, I’m thankful to still be here, pounding on this keyboard, sending my thoughts to you all.  I’m thankful for you and my Facebook buddies - I hesitate to call them “friends” because darn Mark Zuckerberg has actually diluted what that word once meant!  Still, I’m thankful for his creation, which allows me to stay in touch with friends and relatives who live far away - to share their lives on an almost second-by-second basis, with photos of personal and family triumphs (and tragedies, too).
Now that this election is over and, for all intents and purposes, the races are decided, it’s very unlikely that you will see much more from me here.  I’m generally pleased with the outcome and look forward very much to watching Mayor Katrina Foley and the new team that will join her on the City Council dais next month begin to re-establish the goals of our city to conform with the wishes of the voters, so clearly stated in the last two elections.  Although there will always be something to write about in my town, I’m going to try very hard to let someone else do it.
And now, Susie and I want to wish you all a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING.  I have been, and continue to be, thankful for the part you’ve played in my life.  I hope you find ways to share your love over this holiday.  You just never know what kind of a curve ball life will throw you - like our 4 year-old great-nephew, Chase, who was diagnosed with leukemia last week and faces years of chemotherapy ahead - so be sure those you love know it.  If there are things you want to do, do them.  Play this game of life like you’re the Rams and Chiefs last Monday night - just get out there and throw that ball!  We love you all…

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