Anticipating The Righeimer Honeymoon
In anticipation of the first council meeting of the "new era" - the kinder, gentler, more conciliatory era - next Tuesday I thought I'd present some food for thought.
It is widely assumed that we will see Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer elevated to the big chair and become Mayor on December 4th. Logic also tells us that his pal, Steve Mensinger, will be elected Mayor Pro Tem. These moves will likely result in Wendy Leece and returning councilwoman Sandra Genis being relegated to the outside seats on the dais - they will be on the outside looking in, both literally and figuratively.
WILLING TO GIVE HIM A CHANCE
I heard Righeimer's words of conciliation at the last council meeting and, despite my serious apprehensions, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm willing to give him a chance to demonstrate the "New Righeimer". I'm willing to join Orange County Employee Association General Manager Nick Berardino - who showed up at the last council meeting with harmonious words of his own - in taking Righeimer at his word.
Righeimer tells us he wants to retract all remaining layoff notices - he said there are 70 still outstanding - and work with the employee associations toward the goal of saving money by outsourcing WITHOUT resorting to layoffs. He specifically mentioned the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association because negotiations have apparently stalled. It's going to be VERY interesting to see just how willing that particular group will be to sit down with him. There has been distrust and animosity between Righeimer and the police association for years, so we'll be interested to see what effect the truce flag has on that relationship.
BEING FORCE-FED A CHARTER
Righeimer also seems determined to force a charter on Costa Mesa. Early last November I wrote about it when he first surprised us with his idea HERE on this blog and HERE in the Daily Pilot. A month later, following his presentation of HIS charter at a council meeting, I wrote about that event HERE. Now he has asked CEO Tom Hatch to come back with a process by which that ball could be kick-started again. Personally, I think he's jumping the gun - again. With the resounding defeat of HIS charter on November 6th the message should be loud and clear - the voters of Costa Mesa don't want a charter. He has yet to give us specifics on just why he thinks the City should "join the big boys" and become a charter city.
Righeimer mumbles about not having the tools he needs to "fix" the city. Well, they managed to balance the budget without a charter and trim staff without a charter. What "tool" is he referring to? Is it a scalpel, with which surgical slices could be used to improve things? Or, is it a sledgehammer with which he would smash the "unions" and get rid of the unfunded pension liability by declaring municipal bankruptcy? I need to hear more specifics from him before I buy into ANY charter scheme. By the way, the "New Righeimer" has apparently stopped using the word "unions" in his dialogue for the time being. Maybe that's what he means about working together...
NO RUSH TO A PRIMARY BALLOT
He says we have eighteen months to put a new charter initiative together. Actually, we have two full years before the next General Election. The question of a charter should NOT be placed on a Primary Election ballot - it's too important to the future of the city to have only a small percentage of the voters - typical in an off-year primary - make the decision. So, there's no reason to rush the process. If we do it, we need to get it right.
A BROAD-BASED COMMITTEE
Assuming for a moment that a committee or commission is created to craft a proper charter for Costa Mesa, it should include representatives of all constituencies - residents, business owners, major community organizations including neighborhood homeowner associations, service organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, etc. It should NOT be stacked with political cronies the way they've stacked the Investment Oversight Committee, for example.
Righeimer has demonstrated during his short time in Costa Mesa that he is NOT a patient fellow. Leading a municipal government requires, no, DEMANDS, patience. He and Mensinger fancy themselves men of action, so patience is not in their normal lexicon. They have to change and work within the process that's established to protect all the residents of this city. Perhaps Sandra Genis' presence on the dais will help with that... we'll see.
ANTICIPATING THE HONEYMOON
So, off we go on this new honeymoon with Jim Righeimer. It is with great anticipation and apprehension that I wait to see how he performs. We'll see if he continues to suffer with a premature problem - trying to hurry things to a climax without the inconvenience of a little foreplay. I suspect it won't take long to find out.
To refresh your memory, here's a short video clip from the last council meeting in which Righeimer tries to set the tone for the future.