Last Tuesday night, just about an hour into the meeting during the Council Member Comments segment of the Costa Mesa City Council meeting at City Hall, Mayor Jim Righeimer closed his portion of that segment with a scathing diatribe against me, and four other individuals, because of a comment I made on Facebook - not on my Facebook page, but on a thread generated by another person. I wrote about it early the next morning, HERE. He demanded an apology from me and the other four people - whose only "crime" was clicking the "like" button on my comment.
ZINT'S PIECE, PLUS VIDEO CLIP
Bradley Zint wrote about it in the Daily Pilot, HERE, and included a video clip of Righeimer's rant. Please go there, watch the video clip and read Brad's article, then come on back here.
ANGRY, FALSE ACCUSATIONS
As you saw, Righeimer begins by saying he's angry about something I wrote on my blog. Well, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt because he's peeved, but what he's angry about did not occur on my blog at all. As I said above, it happened on Facebook. He's mad because I observed that he acts like a dictator - which he does. He complained that he doesn't watch "the blogs" and doesn't go on social media, yet he immediately posted two separate comments on HIS Facebook page accusing me of "an unthinkable smear against my wife and children" and, referring to me, "We need to pray for him to soften his heart, He knows not what he is saying." Of course, that's horse manure. I NEVER talk about his family, but he frequently uses them as shields this way.
PICK YOUR DICTATOR
Righeimer spews that I compared him to someone who was responsible for "killing 6 million Jews" - Adolf Hitler. Yes, I did compare him to Hitler, although not by name. Actually, you could compare him to just about any dictator you choose - Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Pol Pot, and on and on. Of course I don't think he's responsible for killing Jews. I DO think he behaves very much like those dictators, and have outlined why before. In fact, he demonstrated that behavior several times during that meeting, including shouting down councilwoman Wendy Leece a few minutes later and right at the very end, when he tried to shout down speaker Anna Vrska during her 3-minute comment because she said she agreed with my freedom of speech rights. He failed because Vrska refused to be bullied. Watch that segment HERE. Scroll down and click on the segment at the end titled "Continued Public Comments" - the screen will "jump to" that segment and the counter will read 02:45:07. Watch the exchange between Vrska and Righeimer.
OF MOLE-HILLS AND MOUNTAINS
It's been an interesting few days since this dust-up. My blog entry about it, above, racked up a couple dozen comments. I also posted a link to it on my Facebook page, which resulted in 105 comments and counting. The Daily Pilot story has two comment threads going that have totaled over 100 comments until some peculiar folks began to take their comments down, including one in Morse Code, for goodness sake. The point is, Righeimer took what was a fairly insignificant comment on an obscure Facebook thread - only a few people had read it at the time - and created a giant controversy out of it. The page views on my blog tripled in the immediate aftermath of his rant and the number of "likes" on the original thread doubled, too.
PURE POLITICAL POSTURING
There is really only one explanation for Righeimer to have done what he did - publicity. He's entering a campaign season that is very likely going to turn out to be the most contentious, most expensive in the history of this city. One of his tactics in the past has to been to try to discredit opposing voices, in this case, MINE. He's tried it before and failed. He has unilaterally changed the format during meetings to bifurcate the Public Comments segment, permitting only 10 speakers at the beginning and forcing others to wait until the very end of the meeting - as was the case with Vrska last Tuesday night - to address grievances or to offer compliments and constructive criticism to their elected officials. In this case, as in other instances in the past, he created a controversy, claimed he was a victim and whined about how abused he and his family are because of it
SHAMEFUL FAMILY SHIELD
This time, as he has done in the past, he throws up his family as a shield against criticism. What kind of a man does that? He's chosen to become a politician and with that choice - as I've said many times - comes criticism. Well, he's demonstrated almost since the day he set foot in town, carpetbag in hand, that he just doesn't like criticism and will spit back whenever he feels unfairly criticized. He needs a much thicker skin if he plans to continue as a politician. And, he needs to quit using his family as a shield - shame on him!
CHILLING DEMAND FOR APOLOGIES
Righeimer demanded an apology from me, and the other four people he felt slighted him with their "likes" of my comment. Every single person in this city should be chilled by that demand. For the mayor of our city to sit up there on the dais and call out - by name - individuals who have had the audacity to criticize him will certainly have the effect he wanted - to stifle their free speech. Theirs, maybe - but not mine.
I agree with the mayor that an apology is in order - FROM HIM to the people of our city for abusing his position and for potentially frightening them out of speaking up when they have concerns about how he and his majority are running their city. On his watch we've seen scandals unlike anything in the past - the 60th Anniversary Celebration cost overruns and the now-infamous Decomposed Granite trail fiasco, just to name two.
I predicted that he would play fast and loose with the rules, and he did. I anticipated his attempt to destroy our city by putting potholes ahead of public safety, and said so. And that's what he's done. I joked a little over three years ago, when he and his majority violated city rules and issued more than 200 layoff notices to city employees, that Righeimer's idea of a perfect City Staff would be CEO Tom Hatch and a handful of contract administrators to manage all the outsourced functions. You recall - it was St. Patrick's Day, when young Huy Pham jumped to his death from the City Hall roof and then-mayor Gary Monahan couldn't be bothered to come to City Hall, choosing to stay at his bar and sell beer. Well, that joke turned out to be on me, since that's the way we're headed. The actual working elements of city government have been decimated and the "Executive Offices" have increased staff dramatically, adding party planners, public relations staff and special code enforcement officers to do their bidding. I mean, what city our size actually needs a "Chief Executive Officer", two Assistant CEOs and a Deputy CEO? He and his cronies have created such a toxic and litigious atmosphere at City Hall that we've had to hire another Deputy City Clerk to just handle public records requests! These are NOT signs of a healthy organization and you can trace the malady DIRECTLY to Righeimer.
DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THE DEPTH OF VINDICTIVENESS
Although I thought I understood the depth of Righeimer's vindictiveness toward the members of the Costa Mesa Police Department, I didn't think he would actually go so far as to put the public in danger by gutting that organization and refusing for more than a year to let Chief Tom Gazsi begin recruitment to attempt to reach even the new, lower staffing levels. Our specialty units have been disemboweled and skilled, trained officers have taken early retirement and/or left for other jurisdictions, where their contributions are valued. You know, a place where the mayor and mayor pro tem have not sued the men and women of the police department.
STAFF SHORTAGES CITY-WIDE
And that kind of micromanaging of the organization extends well beyond just the Police Department. There are more than sixty (60) vacancies throughout the city today - nearly 15% of the authorized staff! Instead, we've got expensive contractors doing the work without a vested interest in the long-term well-being of our city.
ASTRONOMICAL LEGAL COSTS
I'm sorry I didn't have the foresight to anticipate that the Righeimer regime would be marked by record legal costs, much of which has been brought on by the way he's running this city. We're spending nearly $500 per hour on lawyers just working on the lawsuit filed by the Costa Mesa City Employees Association in the wake of the bogus layoff notices, alone. For the 2012/2013 Fiscal Year we spent right at $2.5 million on legal fees and, for the first half of this fiscal year we've spent more than $1.1 million. Heck, last week the council approved a Warrant that contained more than $230,000 in legal fees! This is unprecedented in the history of our city. Then, again, it may be what Righeimer meant when he said he wanted to run our city like a business.
For my part, I DO have an apology of my own to make. I apologize to the employees of the City of Costa Mesa and to the residents, business owners and visitors to our fine city for not doing more to fight Righeimer's takeover and destruction of this town. Although I thought I did my best, I should have done more when he ran for City Council four years ago. I feel responsible for not doing enough to keep Righeimer from being elected and two years ago, for not doing enough to break his majority. For that I sincerely apologize to this community. I WON'T MAKE THAT MISTAKE THIS TIME AROUND!
CHECK THE WEATHER REPORT FOR HADES...
As to an apology from me to Righeimer...