Why You Can't Trust Righeimer With His Charter
OK, it's time to talk seriously about Jim Righeimer's Charter. Make that "more seriously", because many of us who oppose his scheme to take over Costa Mesa government completely by trying to convince a typically disengaged electorate that his bogus plan will solve every single problem in the city by providing "local control" HAVE been taking it VERY seriously for most of the past year. Righeimer is, essentially, promising us a Lexus and has delivered a Yugo.
BECOME A "BIG BOY"
From the very beginning, when Righeimer first proposed his plan in November of 2011, his motives were suspect. He told us it was time to join the "big boys" - the 25% of California cities that have a Charter form of government. He avoided mentioning that 75% of the cities in this state remain General Law cities and benefit from the protections from corruption that a Charter makes so possible.
Righeimer shrugged off suggestions that Bell was a Charter city and it became the poster child for corruption around the country. He blamed the Bell fiasco on one person, Robert Rizzo, but neglected to mention that a disengaged electorate permitted the conversion to a Charter city with a vote of only 450 voters in a special election.
FEAR AND MISINFORMATION
For nine months - that's been the gestation period of Jim Righeimer's Charter so far since he first hatched the scheme in November, 2011 - he has attempted to frighten the voters with the specter of financial ruin, when, in fact, things were getting better through the cooperative efforts of the staff and the fiscal management of the previous administration began to have an effect. Along the way he conveniently ignored the fact that nearly all of the California cities that have recently declared bankruptcy are Charter cities.
MORELLO - BANKRUPTCY AN OPTION
In fact, Phil Morello, president of the Costa Mesa Republican Assembly and one of the most visible supporters of Jim Righeimer's Charter, may have actually let the cat out of the bag recently. At the July 31st council meeting, when the council took the vote to place it on the agenda, Morello casually mentioned that one acceptable way out of our financial difficulties would be municipal bankruptcy! More than a few of us who pay attention to these issues wondered if he might not have been telegraphing the plan if the Charter is adopted in November. That would be the ONLY way Righeimer can get rid of the employee association contracts.
JUST NOT THIS CHARTER
I've said it before and will say it again - and again and again, if necessary - I am NOT necessarily against Costa Mesa becoming a Charter City. The problem is THIS Charter, and the lack of safeguards included to head-off a Bell-type situation. It was clear from the outset when Righeimer first charged contract City Attorney Tom Duarte to return with the details in writing of what it would take to convert our city from a General Law city to a Charter city, that he had an agenda. Then he, himself, did all the work by cutting and pasting snippets from other city's charters in a patchwork that blended his own, personal political agenda and the lack of controls mentioned earlier.
HE JUST DOESN'T LIKE RULES
From the first day Righeimer became part of the government of our city - when he was appointed to the Planning Commission by then-mayor Allan Mansoor despite the fact that he had failed to meet the application deadline and after having lived in our city for only a few months - it was obvious that he didn't like all those nasty rules that he had to follow. When Mansoor appointed him in what certainly looked like an act of political patronage for the help Righeimer and his buddy, Dana Rohrabacher, gave to him during his re-election campaign in 2006, the handwriting - graffiti, actually - was on the wall. The Orange County Republican Party, skippered by Scott Baugh, was ready to take over our city and had massaged the dim and gullible Mansoor as the preamble to that effort.
MENSINGER APPOINTMENT LOCKED IT UP - NOT!
Righeimer ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2008 and when he was finally elected to the City Council in 2010 - the first time he was actually elected to something in his political life - his frustration with the rules became even more apparent. After he facilitated the appointment of his pal, Steve Mensinger, to the City Council he apparently thought he had all he needed to take over - a 4-person majority on the council. He was wrong, of course, because even a super-majority has to follow the rules.
When he and Gary Monahan hatched (no offense to our City CEO, Tom Hatch) their outsourcing scheme at Monahan's pub and launched it prematurely by issuing layoff notices to more than 200 municipal employees on St. Patrick's Day, 2011 they made a major gaffe - several, actually - that has resulted in millions of dollars in litigation costs and has done immeasurable damage to the reputation of our city. And Huy Pham jumped from the roof of City Hall. And then-mayor Monahan chose to continue to pour beer for his customers rather than see to the needs of the employees of our city.
All this because Righeimer has a long-standing hatred of unions and has spent much of his political life trying to crush their influence. In his haste to start tossing municipal employees out the door he and his pals forgot to follow the rules. This has become a familiar theme. The great irony of that outsourcing fiasco is that, if they had actually just followed the rules last year, it is possible that a big chunk of their outsourcing scheme might have been consummated by now. Instead we, the taxpayers and voters of this city, are paying one of the most expensive law firms around, Jones Day, nearly $500 per hour with NO CAP on it. In the fiscal year that ended June 30th we had paid them nearly $1 million and that tally isn't complete yet.
UNWILLING TO NEGOTIATE
So strong is his union hatred that it has virtually rendered Righeimer incapable of considering any kind of serious negotiation with the employee associations in our city. NOTE: They are NOT unions - they don't have the right to stage job actions, for example. Even though both the police and fire departments are seriously understaffed, the Righeimer-led council refuses to permit hiring replacements or to fill the pipeline with new folks to cover anticipated retirements. They demand a second pension tier be established BEFORE replacements will be approved, yet have refused to consider serious offers made by both bargaining units. And, they've spent over $40,000 on a labor negotiator in just a few months to facilitate their plans. As a result, every resident, visitor to our city and business within our borders are at much greater risk. He is not only willing, but apparently eager, to place our public safety at risk to further his political future.
MORE ABUSE OF POWER
There are many, many examples of his attempts to abuse the power of his office, but the last time the council met - in a hastily-called "emergency" meeting to "clean up some administrative issues" - we saw just how dangerous he will be if HIS charter passes in November. That meeting - covered on this blog and in the local media - demonstrated the lengths to which Righeimer and his pals on this council will go to hide the truth from the voters of this city. It was called with only hours left before the deadline to submit the paperwork to the Registrar of Voters and at a time that left NO time for the opposition to re-frame its argument against the charter - their deadline had passed. By approving the elimination of a reference to "no-bid contracts" in the Ballot Descriptions, Summary and Enumerations of Powers section that is required by law to be included in a charter proposal, Righeimer and the council demonstrated their disdain for the voters - even more than they've been showing in recent months. They know that the voters will NOT, in all likelihood, read the entire text of the charter. They'll depend on that summary to tell them what they need to know - and it doesn't do that now.
3 MONTHS AND COUNTING...
We now have 13 weeks until the election. During that time there will be, so far, five (5) candidate forums at which Jim Righeimer's Charter might be discussed. One of the meetings, on September 5th, is dedicated specifically to that subject. I fully expect to see the proponents of the charter attempt to manipulate the facts and, perhaps, flat-out lie to the public about this issue. They will almost certainly demonize those opposing it. I encourage each of you to pay attention, attend as many of those events as you can or watch the taped version on CMTV - each will be covered. This issue is too important to just casually stroll into the voting booth and flip a coin. It is the second-most important decision the voters of this city will make - the vote to incorporate nearly 60 years ago being the first. We'll try to help you understand the issues and the candidates as the campaign season move along.
TRUST AND A PROMISE NOT DELIVERED
As Daily Pilot columnist Jeffrey Harlan and former city executive and frequent council critic Perry Valantine have reminded us in recent weeks, this is really a matter of trust. So far, Jim Righeimer has failed that test. Remember, he promises us a Lexus and has delivered a Yugo - with him at the wheel. Vote NO on Jim Righeimer's Charter.