Jim Righeimer's Charter Moves On - Again
NO DOUBT ABOUT WHO IS IN CHARGE!
Let's begin this right off the bat (another baseball metaphor) by stating clearly that there is no longer even a semblance of a doubt about just who is calling the shots on this issue. At the beginning of the meeting well-scrubbed young people were handing out the stickers shown here - both on the Council Chambers porch and within the auditorium itself. That, of course, is strictly forbidden. When I asked one of these bright young people who they represented she cheerfully stated, "The Orange County Republican Party!" Later she and her half-dozen cronies were seen preparing to step to the speaker's podium with a script. In the end, one of them did speak up and read directly from that script. Another spoke later, very obviously using talking points prepared for him. It was very clear that these young people had been dispatched by OC GOP Chairman Scott Baugh and his minions to attempt to influence public opinion on Jim Righeimer's Charter. Those two speakers were part of 5 who spoke in favor of the charter. The remaining 23 spoke against it, including announced council candidates Sue Lester, Harold Weitzberg, John Stephens and Sandra Genis.
NEARLY A FULL HOUSE
The proceedings began before a crowd numbering over 150 interested souls, most of whom seemed to be opposed to Jim Righeimer's Charter based on their response to presentations by speakers. There were many new faces, which means they probably heard this stuff for the first time. I was impressed to see several "old hands" in city affairs at this meeting - folks who had dedicated large portions of their earlier lives to the City in one way or another. They came to see, first hand, what this was all about. Based on their later comments, they left frustrated and disappointed. For those of us who have attended all the previous meetings, hearing the council member comments was a little like listening to a phonograph record with a scratch in it, jumping back to the previous groove over and over again.
FROM PERRY TO PENSIONS
The comments ran the gamut, beginning with Perry Valantine's calm warning about giving too much weight to the letters included in the council information packets - many of which were duplicates and triplicates. He also expressed concern for the lack of leadership from the dais. Activist Robin Leffler complained about multiple versions of Jim Righeimer's Charter that were part of the hand-outs last night, adding to the confusion. Stephens, a lawyer, expressed concern about section 401, which deals with contract laws. Activist and former council candidate Lisa Reedy requested that someone in authority provide a clarification about "pensions", stating that this document will DO NOTHING to change the current pension obligations. Eastside activist Katie Arthur added emphasis to Reedy's statement and also reinforced a theme that others had expressed - that this document places too much power in the hands of too few with inadequate controls.
Finally, just after 8:00, the City portion of the program commenced. Former City Attorney, Kimberly Hall Barlow, was the lead presenter for The City. She tried to respond to many of the criticisms expressed by the speakers. At one point Mayor Eric Bever asked her, "What is your opinion that the charter was written by one person." She replied, "Not anymore." This, obviously, was in response to the many speakers who referred to the fact that the document was the work of Jim Righeimer, who admitted cutting and pasting segments from several sources. Later, responding to the same question, Righeimer stated that he "hadn't had his hands on it since December". Well, folks, that is a lie! Does he not think anyone will call him on it? Those of us who have been watching this debacle from the beginning recall his paw prints all over the document as suggestion after suggestion were rejected in earlier meetings. He actually massaged language on the document from the dais earlier this spring. Yes, Jim, we DO watch and DO remember.
Yes, Barlow has recently "cleaned up" the current version, which can be found as part of the staff report HERE. But this "cleansing" has occurred only recently - within the last few days. Had Jim Righeimer's Charter been placed on the June ballot as he planned, it would have been a different, less-clear and even sloppier document. That, however, doesn't mean that THIS new version is better. Many of the same deficiencies and problem segments remain so it continues to be an unacceptable document on which to build the future of this city.
CHECKS AND BALANCES?
When asked by Bever whether this document lacks checks and balances - a criticism by many of the speakers - Barlow said, "That's what the voters will decide." I thought that was a curious, yet telling reply. And, yes, Kim, we WILL decide in November.
IT'S ALL ABOUT TRUST, JIM
Several speakers expressed lack of trust in this council as a reason they opposed Jim Righeimer's Charter. Curiously, Righeimer himself later stated, "It's simply a matter of trust." You're correct, Jimbo, it IS a matter of trust. And when he told us that "he would be there after November" and could work with anyone up there, not too many of us sitting in the audience actually believed him. Since he was elected - and in the months before - he has demonstrated time after time after time that he IS NOT to be trusted. It has been crystal clear from the beginning that this charter scheme - and some of the particularly onerous segments that he demanded be included - are part of his personal political plan for self-aggrandizement. If he succeeds here after failing so many times in the past his pals in the OC GOP (see above) will smile down upon him.
THE CHARTER VOTE TAKES PLACE JULY 31, 2012
So, this current version of Jim Righeimer's Charter will receive further burnishing by Barlow and will be presented to the council for final consideration on July 31st. It's going to be another long, long evening. At that time the council will again review the document and vote on whether or not to place it on the November 6th ballot. There is no doubt about that - the charter WILL be on the ballot barring some kind of administrative mishap. It will then be up to the voters of this city to decide whether they will give virtually unfettered power to those in charge or not.
NOT "THIS" CHARTER
As I've said many, many times in the past - I'm NOT opposed to A Charter for Costa Mesa. I am opposed to THIS Charter. If a Charter is right for our city, it should be carefully crafted by a broad-based group of residents to insure that sufficient safeguards are included and that the needs and desires of all constituencies are considered. That has not happened with this process. This process has been rushed from the very beginning - as though the author was afraid the voters would catch onto him - and focused on the desires of one man. Be assured, we will...