At the risk of being accused of beating a dead horse to a pulp, let us revisit last weeks Special City Council meeting - the final public hearing on Jim Righeimer's Charter - to provide a little more clarity.
A tip of the hat to all of you who posted comments on my previous entries... diversity of opinion is welcome here. I'm always grateful for the thoughtful, researched comments presented by some of you. And, those of you who choose to just flame other commenters are also welcome - those kind of comments make a point, too. Now to business...
KNOTS OF UNFAMILIAR FACES
At the meeting last week it became clear to me early on that it was going to be very special. There were folks arriving to grab seats more than an hour before the 7:00 start time and most were unfamiliar faces. They arrived in little knots - twos, threes and fours - and sat in these little clusters throughout the auditorium. I expected there to be folks representing organized labor because Jim Righeimer's Charter, if passed as proposed, is a huge threat to them. Silly me, though, because I didn't expect the "other side" - Righeimer's side - to be represented by similar little groups. Wrong!
We've written about Kevin Dayton's presentation and provided you with his little video clip - 9:11 - for your viewing pleasure. I'm not linking to it again - twice is plenty - but you can go back and view if on the previous links if you wish. Reader Terry Koken - the gent who crooned to the city council at the meeting - took the time to transcribe Dayton's presentation and sent it to me for publication if I chose to do so. Well, as much as I appreciated that effort, it's just too darn long. Not his fault - it's over nine minutes of dialogue. Unless there is popular demand I won't publish it. Thanks, anyhow, Terry.
DAYTON'S COMMENTARY AND CHRISTEN'S COMMENT
Dayton submitted a Community Commentary to the Daily Pilot which was published last week, HERE. In the comment thread there is high praise from Eric Christen, who was also a speaker that night. I began to wonder about these guys and found that they travel around the country like two guys joined in a 3-legged race to spread the word about the evils of the Prevailing Wage contracts. You can view Christen's 3:11 comment before the council below. An interesting sidebar is that Righeimer apparently didn't turn on the timer when Christen spoke because the one-minute warning light never went on. I guess he was ready to let Christen stretch out as long as he wanted - a preamble to Dayton's long rant which came about 5 minutes later.
WHO IS THAT GUY?
So, I did some digging about Eric Christen. Here's an excerpt from his personal web site, HERE:
"After graduating from college Eric taught in public schools for four years in Oregon. In 1996 he was asked to help run the campaign of a local congressional candidate in Oregon's 1st Congressional District and has been involved in politics ever since. In 1998 Eric was the state field director for Proposition 226 (Paycheck Protection) which would have compelled unions to get permission from their members before money was taken out of their paychecks and used for political purposes. It narrowly lost after being outspent more than 5 to 1. In 1999 Eric was put in charge of the signature gathering process for Proposition 22 (Defense of Marriage Act) which was overwhelmingly passed by the voters of California. In 1999 Eric was hired as the Executive Director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (www.stoppla.com) and since then has been working to see that the rights of all California contractors, and their workers, are protected from discriminatory and unfair Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). Since joining CFEC Eric has grown the group from 50 companies to over 300. Eric has helped to create 7 regional coalitions to more effectively fight PLAs at the grassroots level. Successes to date include the formation of these local groups and the over $3 million they have raised for various candidates and elected officials. Eric was instrumental in helping to pass a first-of-its-kind ordinance banning PLAs in the City of Fresno and in defeating over three dozen PLAs throughout the state since being hired. In 2002 Eric was named as one of the �40 under 40� by the East Bay Business Times, a recognition given to young professionals making an impact in California. In 2003 Eric was elected to the largest school district in Colorado Springs, CO. where he led the school district to a number of reforms in an effort to turn around that poorly performing district. In 2000 Eric raised over $25,000 for President George W. Bush and in the most recent election cycle has already raised over $100,000 for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger."
Please note the section highlighted in red. If that rings a bell with you, please recall that Proposition 226, the Paycheck Protection Act, was Jim Righeimer's baby. "Ah, ha!", he says, as the light goes on....
Then please go to Christen's biography on the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) website. He's the Executive Director of that organization. You can read his bio HERE.
HIS FORMATIVE POLITICAL YEARS
A little more digging into his background turns up his activism while living in Colorado Springs. Two excerpts from articles in the Colorado Springs Independent turn up some interesting quotes and gives us a little clue about the man who traveled from Sacramento last week to praise Jim Righeimer's Charter scheme.
"EXCITABLE BOY" WAS AN IRRITANT
For example, in an article from February 19, 2004 titled "Excitable boy - Eric Christens path to public office", HERE, you'll find this quote: "...no one else has rubbed as many people th wrong way as has board member Eric Christen." Or HERE, from an entry in 2005, you'll find this quote about Christen: "D-11 board member Eric Christen is well-known for his bombastic flame-throwing at fellow board members, administrators and even teachers during televised meetings. Thanks in large part to Christen, board meetings often have degenerated into a theater of the absurd."
In 2006 Eric Christen was recalled by the voters and removed from his elected seat on the Colorado Springs District 11 (D11) School Board.
UNEVEN APPLICATION OF THE RULES
I guess I understand Righeimer's tactics. He imports shills from advocacy groups to bolster his position, just as organized labor imports folks to step up and speak on the other side of the issue. In a perfect world - where a Charter for our city is created by the collaborative efforts of an elected commission as is prescribed for in state law - such diverse viewpoints would certainly be heard, probably in a Town Hall kind of setting. Instead, when Righeimer personally writes the Charter with his personal agenda clearly in mind, these views are presented at the last possible moment - and given extended time to do so. Only AFTER the outcry and turmoil following Dayton's presentation - and the break called last Monday night to restore order in the auditorium - did Righeimer offer extended time to other speakers. And, then, he ONLY offered it to those representing organized labor, not the residents who have the most to lose if his Charter is passed. It is this uneven application of the rules that scares many residents of Costa Mesa. With Righeimer being able to write HIS OWN RULES, there is no end to the corruption that is possible once HIS Charter is adopted.
MARKING TIME UNTIL MARCH 6TH
So, now we wait until March 6th, to see what Jim Righeimer's Charter looks like in final form. The voters will make a choice that will set the tone for the way our city is governed for the foreseeable future.