Bill Lobdell's View Of Righeimer
Tomorrow morning, as the city prepares to anoint two recently-elected council members - Wendy Leece and Jim Righeimer - Daily Pilot columnist Bill Lobdell presents yet another interesting bit of writing for you to consider. You can read the entire column HERE.
AFTER WARMING UP HE DIVES IN...
After re-hashing some other issues - the recent plane crash in the Back Bay; Facilities Management West's plan to purchase the Fairgrounds and his scheme to be a peacemaker between Wendy Leece, Scott Baugh and John Moorlach (Moorlach apparently has balked), he dives right into Righeimer's election.
I write about this tonight because Lobdell - probably the best writer/reporter the Daily Pilot has had in years - mentioned me specifically, by name, as a critic of Righeimer. To quote Bill, "Some in the community, led by influential city blogger Geoff West, see Righeimer as a carpet-bagging opportunist who will use his intellect, hardball political instincts and Republican ties to rule the city like a Daly in Chicago." I thought that was an amusing turn of phrase because I'm not the leader of anything here in town. I'm just an old guy with a few opinions on local issues and too much time on his hands. I do agree with Lobdell's characterization of Righeimer, though.
Lobdell quotes someone he describes as a "longtime Righeimer acquaintance" with whom he joked that many people are building Righeimer up to be Costa Mesa's political Darth Vader. This person apparently said, "I don't think that's far off." His words, not mine.
RIGHEIMER IS WHAT?
Lobdell then uses another interesting phrase when he says, "I'm not in the Righeimer-is-the-anti-Christ camp." Yikes!
NO.. HE'S (READ BELOW)
So, let's be clear here. I don't think Jim Righeimer is necessarily the anti-Christ. As I've stated many times, I think he is a political opportunist - a carpetbagger who stepped across the border from Fountain Valley when he saw his political prospects were much, much better in Costa Mesa. I mean, we elected Chris Steel and Allan Mansoor - how tough could it be for him, probably the most well-connected politico we've ever had in this city, to jump in and snag a political platform from which to spring to bigger and better things?
OPPORTUNIST? YOU BET!
And, guess what?! After helping his buddy, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, assist Mansoor get re-elected, sure enough - Righeimer was immediately appointed to the Planning Commission even though he had only lived in Costa Mesa a few months and submitted his application after the deadline. In appointing Righeimer, Mansoor gave the stiff-arm to long-time supporter and friend, Paul Bunney, not once, not twice but three times and clearly demonstrated that, to him, politics are more important than friendship and loyalty.
FAILED TWO YEARS AGO, BUT LEARNED
Two years ago Righeimer, perhaps a little cocky, ran for City Council and finished fourth to Gary Monahan, Katrina Foley and Eric Bever. This was only the most recent of several failures to convince an electorate that he was the right guy. But he learned from that election. He learned that he actually needed a platform to run on!
AN ORCHESTRATED CAMPAIGN
This year he created a platform out of whole cloth and took on the public employee unions. I guess he decided he needed an "enemy", so they became his "illegal aliens", the bogus platform Mansoor used in his re-election campaign. In a curious set of circumstances that some suspect might have been orchestrated, Righeimer butted heads with the police at a DUI checkpoint. And then there was the "stink-eye" issue, in which Eric Bever and Christian Eric were observed by members of the Costa Mesa Police Department hanging Righeimer signs on a fence at 17th Street and Superior. He and the police association traded campaign slaps and hardball tactics. He managed to convince enough people that the cops were out to get him that he finally won his first election - ever.
WHAT TACTICS CAN WE EXPECT?
Which brings us to Tuesday night. Some of us who pay attention to these things now wonder what kind of tactics Righeimer will employ to achieve his avowed goal of "fixing" the municipal employee salary and benefits "problem". In order for the employee contracts to be voided - which is what it would take to accomplish his plan - the City would have to declare bankruptcy and re-negotiate all contracts, including the municipal employee labor agreements. In my view, that would be catastrophic for our city. Vallejo, in northern California, tried it almost two years ago and is still in chaos.
COSTA MESA AS A LAB EXPERIMENT
Righeimer and his cronies at the Orange County Republican Party seem more than willing to use Costa Mesa as some kind of lab experiment - a petri dish in which they will grow the germ of state-wide pension reform. Of course, for that to happen unilaterally means that our city will be at a huge competitive disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees. That doesn't seem to bother Righeimer and his pals, though - particularly those who don't live in Costa Mesa. In fact, a few days ago a chance encounter placed me face-to-face with a Righeimer supporter who made absolutely no bones about it. He told me, in response to my concern about losing good employees if Righeimer's plan was implemented, that it was OK. He said, "You should probably get rid of them all and start over. There are plenty of people available out there." This man, who doesn't live in Costa Mesa by the way, is way, way off base. He wouldn't be personally impacted by such chaos in Costa Mesa, but he didn't care if we were as long as Righeimer got the credit for being the point man in pension reform.
RIGHEIMER AND MENSINGER - HEAVY-HANDED
I've watched Righeimer during his tour on the Planning Commission and watched his buddy, Steve Mensinger - the presumed replacement for Katrina Foley if and when she resigns. Both of them are experienced businessmen, used to having people jump then told to do so. They both have demonstrated a heavy hand in municipal matters, including micro-managing projects placed before them and berating applicants. That management style might work for some people in the development business, but has no place in municipal governance.
LOBDELL - RIGHEIMER SHOULD NOMINATE LEECE FOR MAYOR
Lobdell postulates that Righeimer should take the lead Tuesday night and nominate Wendy Leece as Mayor. That, I fear, is a pipe dream. Righeimer would get himself into the GOP doghouse along with Leece if he dared do such a thing. After all, Leece committed an egregious crime - she put the well-being of the City of Costa Mesa and its residents over the wishes of the leadership of the OC GOP. There is no chance Righeimer will put himself at odds with his buddies.
A WINDING, BUMPY ROAD AHEAD
We'll see how this goes tomorrow evening. If the meeting begins on time - no sure thing, since there are three items on the closed session agenda that begins at 5:00 - then we will have a new mayor and mayor pro tem before 7 p.m. And then, off we go on an adventure that I fear might resemble something akin to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (to borrow a phrase from my friend, Byron de Arakal). Fasten your seatbelts...