"Jim Righeimer's Charter" Will Be On June Ballot
Last night, at 10:20 p.m. - to the surprise of absolutely no one in the council chambers and following an hour and a quarter of public comments during which 28 people spoke on the issue (4 in support and 24 against or demanded a slower pace and/or placement on the November ballot) and nearly two hours of council discussion - the Costa Mesa City Council voted - seven times - to place Jim Righeimer's Charter on the June 5, 2012 ballot. As predicted, the five resolutions required for the placement of the charter on the ballot and related administrative issues all passed by 4-1 votes, with Wendy Leece voting NO on each.
EVEN MORE COSTS
Additionally, the council voted unanimously to place the full text of the Charter in the ballot (I assume that means in the voter pamphlet) - at an estimated cost of $14,500. They also voted to authorize the mailing of an "informational brochure", which will cost from $9600 for 4 pages to over $13,000 for twelve. That means, based on the estimate provided by the Registrar of Voters, to place this issue on the June ballot the City will spend just about $150,000 to feed Jim Righeimer's ego, enhance his political future and saddle our city with conditions in the Charter which, if passed, are guaranteed to lead to even more legal troubles Costa Mesa.
NOT THIS CHARTER...
I've said from the very beginning that I'm NOT against the concept of a charter. It's very likely that Costa Mesa might benefit from becoming a Charter City IF that charter is crafted with care by a broad cross section of residents in the form of an elected Charter Commission, to preclude personal political agendas being foisted off on the residents of the city. I'm against THIS charter, which does precisely that - it advances Righeimer's personal political agenda.
HE ADMITS PATERNITY
On the subject of this being "Jim Righeimer's Charter", during the discussion last night he actually acknowledged that fact - that it is, indeed, his creation. Let's hear no more yapping about how this was a collaborative effort, with many changes recommended by residents included in it. The Charter that was approved last night - the one that we will vote on in June - IS Righeimer's baby - his DNA is all over it.
COSTA MESANS FOR RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT
A few of the speakers last night represented the grass roots organization, Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG), which will actively oppose the Charter between now and the election in June. You can read about them at their web site, www.cm4rg.org. One of my biggest disappointments last night was the attempt by members of the City Council to paint those folks as some kind of radical kooks. That behavior is consistent with the way they have treated virtually anyone who dares to step to the speaker's podium and criticize them on ANY issue.
Among the members of CM4RG are former Mayor, Sandra Genis -a land use planning consultant by profession and a responsible citizen of our city. In addition to her service on the City Council, she is also the President of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society - the group that was largely responsible for getting the sale of the Fairgrounds quashed recently.
The group also includes Eleanor Egan - retired member of the Costa Mesa City Attorney's office and former Planning Commissioner - and her husband, Tom Egan - a retired engineer and former trustee of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. They have been active in Costa Mesa affairs for two decades and were cornerstones of the early days of the Westside improvement movement.
Among the others is Robin Leffler - a long-time officer in Mesa Verde Community, Inc., the homeowner's association for that part of town where both Righeimer and his pal, Steve Mensinger, live - who has been speaking before this city council and many others before them on a variety of issues.
Perry Valantine, a long-time resident and retired senior staffer in the Costa Mesa Planning Department, has been a consistently excellent speaker before this council, making carefully-considered suggestions on many important issues, including this charter scheme.
Tamar Goldmann, a long-time educator in the community, has presented courteous, carefully-crafted comments and suggestions to this council.
VILIFIED FOR THEIR TROUBLE
These folks - and the many others who have joined them - are not just a bunch of hacks - they are pillars of the community, who take the time to study the issues, attend the meetings, read the staff reports and offer educated views on issues. None of them have plans to run for office. Their only goal is to try to make the community in which they live a better place for us all. For their trouble they have been belittled, chided and vilified by members of this council. Some have been called out BY NAME for special abuse - a behavior that has become increasingly more prevalent by some members of this council and that is unacceptable.
NOW IT STARTS
So, now the battle begins. The four men on the City Council have decided to jam Jim Righeimer's Charter down our throats at a pace that is unacceptable. That gets worse when you realize that opposing views that will appear in the voter's pamphlet MUST be submitted no later than 5:00 this Friday!
Between now and June 5th the City will wage a campaign - there's no other word for it - to get this Charter passed. They will spend taxpayer dollars on "informational fliers" that - if their first such device is any indication - will be spun by Communications Director Bill Lobdell to make the readers see only one side of this issue. I expect the opposition - certainly the CM4RG group - to counter that propaganda with "information" of its own.
WE'LL TRY TO DO OUR PART...
For our part here, expect to see more - much more - on Jim Righeimer's Charter in the weeks to come. There is no more important issue facing Costa Mesa voters in the Primary Election on June 5th. We will do our best to provide accurate, timely information for you.
Oh, yes, there was other business conducted last night, too.
SPENDING, SPENDING, SPENDING...
The council breezed right through the Consent Calendar, pulling only three items for separate discussion. Along the way they spent a lot of taxpayer dollars. They agreed to spend more than $170,000 in un-budgeted dollars for improvements at the intersection of Harbor Blvd. and Gisler Avenue; more than $250,000 to replace our antiquated telephone system, including an additional $18,000 of un-budgeted dollars and agreed to spend $100,000 of grant funds on sewer screens.
"2@60" ENACTED WITH AN EMERGENCY ORDINANCE
They signed an emergency ordinance to immediately implement the new 2@60 retirement tier for new "Miscellaneous" employees and issued a resolution on the upcoming Orange County Marathon on May 6th.
MENSINGER'S "PERFORMANCE AUDITS"
At the end of the meeting they considered Mensinger's plan for what he calls "Annual Performance Audits". And, continuing the philosophy of spending money like drunken sailors, raised the proposed amount for this process - $50,000 - to $100,000. There is NO budget for this money this year so it will come from - you guessed it - CEO Tom Hatch's "contingency fund" - the $900,000 slush fund created by this council last year as a kind of "piggy bank", to be raided whenever they need beer money. Mensinger wants this "process" to be an ongoing enterprise - using consultants to come into organizations to assess their effectiveness. No mention was made about whether this process will include evaluations of individual's performance - something that should have been addressed.
EARLY EXIT PLUS HIGH SCHOOL KIDS
Oh, yes... we got out of the meeting at 11:05 p.m. - 50 minutes sooner than I had predicted. More than 30 high school students from Newport Harbor High School, including my very talented next door neighbor, attended the council meeting as part of a school assignment. Most lasted a couple hours, but all had departed before the Charter issue came up. They helped fill the auditorium to capacity in the early hours. I hope they learned something positive from the process...