Sunday, October 31, 2010

If You Really Want To Know...

Not that it should make much difference to you all, but more than a few people have asked how I voted on some the important issues on our ballot this year. As you know, I mailed my ballot in last week, so I hope Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley will soon find it in his in box and count it.


Over the past few months I've given you plenty of clues about some of the races I feel are important, and have not mentioned others at all. I'm not going to cover ALL my votes here - just the ones that are primarily Costa Mesa-centric. Here goes:

For Costa Mesa City Council I voted for Wendy Leece and Chris McEvoy. Leece earned my vote - one that I wouldn't have thought she'd get even a year ago - by moderating her position on some very important issues and standing her ground against unbelievable political pressure applied by the Orange County Republican Party at what will almost certainly be a significant political risk for her. She's a conservative Costa Mesan first and clearly will not blindly follow the mantra of the OC GOP purely for partisan political reasons. I've disagreed with Leece on many issues in the past, but I've seen a maturing of her approach and a willingness to listen to all sides before making a decision - a rare quality among her current peers. I was happy to cast my vote for her this time around.


Chris McEvoy also earned my vote - th
e old fashioned way. True to his word after the election two years ago, he has stayed involved in local issues and attended most City Council and Planning Commission meetings. He studied the staff reports and offered good questions for our leaders to consider. He did his homework and offered solutions. McEvoy finished 6th two years ago - his first ever campaign. At the very beginning of that campaign he developed Dystonia, a nerve disorder that affects how his tongue works. A high school math teacher, he found a way to deal with that affliction, finished the school year and ran a frugal, but effective campaign. This year he also is running a bare-bones campaign and still has the physical problem, which he has learned to manage effectively. This time around his appearance is hindered by his long, sometimes kind of straggly, hair. He could have clipped it for the campaign, but had previously made a commitment to grow it as long as possible until after the first of the year, at which time he will be shorn and his hair will be donated to Locks of Love, a charitable organization that provides hairpieces to severely ill young people. This year he has become a threat to Jim Righeimer, so he's been the target of malicious lies and misrepresentations. A young man of great character, he kept his eye on the prize, took the high road and commented only on the issues - he didn't engage in any personal attacks.

I've referred to McEvoy as Costa Mesa's Everyman. He comes from a family of educators, works a second job during the summ
er at the Frog House - the almost-defunct surf shop in Newport Beach - and loves Costa Mesa. He doesn't want to see massive changes - development of the Banning Ranch, huge LED lighting displays at Triangle Square, etc. - in his home town. He's a smart young man of great character with a keen analytical mind and an eagerness to help his city. Is he the strongest candidate we've ever had running for City Council? No, I don't think so. However, I can think of very few before him who have displayed the strength of character and tenacity in the face of such malicious adversity. He will have a steep learning curve, but will be a fine representative for our city. And, he will be beholden to no one - no special interests nor political parties have massaged and manipulated him in this campaign. Isn't that refreshing?

I DID NOT vote for Jim Righeimer for the reasons I spelled out in an earlier post. Sue Lester is a bright gal - another carpetbagger who moved to the city and immediately signed up to run for City Council. She denies being a single issue candidate and has tried to immerse herself in broader issues than her Medical Marijuana industry. She's smart and, if she remains involved in community issues, perhaps there is a council seat in her future downstream. Chad Petschl is a charming guy, but has absolutely no idea of the important issues in our city. He sealed his fate when he suggested we add runways to John Wayne Airport.

You already know that I voted YES on Measure "L", the 2% increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), or bed tax as it's known elsewhere. At 6%, Costa Mesa's current rate is the lowest in the county by far and nearly the lowest in the entire state. The modest increase to 8% - not enough, in my opinion - will still not bring us to the county median of 10.25%. This tax will affect no Costa Mesa residents and can bring upwards of $1.5 million in additional annual revenue to our General Fund. This increase has been overdue for more than two decades. Now is the time to make this change and help our city on the road to financial stability.

I, a lifelong Repub
lican, voted for the moderate Democrat, Phu Nguyen for many reasons, some of which have less to do with him than his opponent, Allan Mansoor. Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who had a difficult time just surviving to reach America, has led an exemplary life. He has worked hard, gotten an excellent education, operates a very successful business and is a family man. He easily bridges all cultures found in his district. I've met him several times and found him to be a bright, focused and hard-working young man who will certainly make a difference in Sacramento. His opponent, the under-educated, under-achieving former jailer for the Orange County Sheriff's Department until he quit last December, Allan Mansoor, is termed-out as a city councilman. It's a good thing, too. During his 8-year tenure he has been a divisive figure in our city, making himself the poster boy, and Costa Mesa the flash point, for racial disharmony as he pandered to the worst side of our populace. He has proven to be a dullard on the dais, unable to form even the most basic of arguments for his positions and completely lacking in any consensus-building skills. His mantra has been "I've got concerns" when asked about issues. However, he never articulates what those concerns are so they can be resolved. Actually, it's just a lame cover-up for his pattern of voting the party line. He's been a puppet for the Orange County Republican Party since his first term and continues to be one today. He would be in so far over his head in Sacramento that he would likely drown under the weight of his insignificance. Phu Nguyen is my choice. This video clip may be helpful to you:

I vot
ed for Katrina Foley and Loretta Zimmerman. Both women bring a fresh perspective to this organization - a revitalization that is overdue. Foley is a known commodity - a bright, tireless public servant, lawyer and mother of two sons in the district schools who consistently goes well beyond the parameters of her assignments. As the Energizer Bunny of the City Council for six years, she has usually been a minority voice, trying to bring reason to arguments cast in stone by her peers. Even so, she has been extremely effective and will bring the same vitality and spirit to the School Board. Zimmerman, a no-nonsense numbers person, would replace Judy Franco, who has served with distinction for 30 years. As she made her remarks during the joint School Board/City Council forum sponsored by Costa Mesa United she was showing a weariness that lingering too long on a job can bring. She should be thanked for her long and exemplary service, but it is time for a change.

With three seats open, my choices are Arlene Schafer, Bob Ooten and Mike Scheafer.
Schafer and Ooten are incumbents who have done a good job for us. My friend, Mike Scheafer, has served this community proudly and well in leadership roles in many organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club, The Lions Club, the Senior Center, as a Council Member, a Parks and Recreation Commissioner and also on the Sanitary District previously. He has been elevated to leadership positions in every volunteer organization he's been a part of for the past three decades. He grew up in Costa Mesa, operates a business in our city, raised his sons here and now is helping coach his grandchildren in baseball - in this city. Mike is a very special lifelong public servant and will add leadership to the Sanitary District. I DID NOT cast one of my votes for Jim Fitzpatrick because I'm very disappointed in the path he seems to be taking. He's become the lapdog for Righeimer and his pals on the Planning Commission, Steve Mensinger and Colin McCarthy and is developing some unpleasant habits. Some refer to him as a "bully-in-training".

I voted for Shana Jenkins and David Grant. Jenkins brings a youthful vitality to this assignment - a reminder to the others on the board of just who this district serves. Grant, a legend at OCC, is a former President of the college and crew coach extraordinaire! He brings leadership, wisdom, maturity and a decades-long dedication to the college district that will serve us all well.


I voted for i
ncumbent President Shawn Dewane. He has demonstrated leadership of that organization and deserves to be returned to his seat. I also voted for him for a seat on the Orange County Water District Board. I couldn't vote for the other seat open, but if given the opportunity I think I would vote to retain appointed Director, Jim Fisler. He has been a Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner and Parks and Recreation Commissioner in the past. He's probably the best choice of the three contenders for that seat.

I voted for Meg Whitman. I like her experience and success. Jerry Brown, a man i
n his 70s, has never strayed far from the public trough his entire adult life. He doesn't have a clue about what it takes to make a payroll, having spent his life living on the family trust fund. I've lived through his last tour as Governor. He was a disaster then and would be again. The only way I would vote for Jerry Brown is if he was running against Allan Mansoor.

That's it.. for the rest of the ballot you're on your own. There are plenty of resources available to you. Study the sample ballot and the voter guide; go online for newspaper editorials on issues. Take a look at the four candidate forums available on Costa Mesa Television - Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and 99 on ATT UVerse. You can also see them on streaming video on the city web site. I've provided links and viewing schedule on an earlier post for your viewing pleasure. Please make an INFORMED choice on each item on the ballot.

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OC GOP Eats Their Own

Today in my mailbox, stuffed with campaign literature and bills I found an interesting piece specifically addressed to my wife and myself. We assume it came from a list of Republican voters, which we both are, and was directed to us to influence our positions on the election Tuesday.

This interesting piece was from the Republican Party of Orange County, and gave the address of the headquarters on Edinger Avenue in Santa Ana. It told us it was a "member communication". The front, which I did not copy for you, shows a fellow with his feet on the desk, hands folded behind his head and it has remarks criticizing Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Leece for her part in approving contact amendments to several employee bargaining units last Tuesday. Leece approved those items as an attempt to balance the municipal budget, and was joined in the vote by fellow Republican Gary Monahan and Democrat Katrina Foley. No mention of Monahan was made in this piece. Oh, no... he cast the same vote, but he did disobey the OC GOP!

The reverse side, which you see below, contains a message from Scott Baugh, Chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County. The message is clear, so I'll let you digest it yourself.

.In case the type is too small, Baugh gripes about rising pension costs and tells you that Wendy Leece promised weeks ago that she would no longer support these "unsustainable pensions.

He then tells me that she broke her promise when she voted last Tuesday to approve "lavish pensions". He states emphatically that "Wendy Leece is no friend of the taxpayer, and she does not keep her promises." He asks us to call Wendy to let her know how you feel about her promises and votes.

It's obvious from this communication and others I've seen generated by Baugh since the council vote Tuesday that Baugh and his minions are really ticked-off at Wendy Leece for "breaking her pledge" to the OC GOP.

Well, here's the deal, Mr. Baugh. Wendy Leece was elected four years ago - with your help, by the way - by the people of Costa Mesa to do the best job she could to help administer our city. When faced with the two bad choices - vote for the agreements to help balance the budgets (knowing she would face your wrath) or to vote against them and almost certainly guarantee a delay in addressing them until after the new city council was seated in January, which would cost the city at least $250,000 for each month of the delay. And, as we all know now, such a delay might actually cause our city to have to declare bankruptcy, which would toss out all the existing contracts, including the labor contracts.

It is very likely that this is the plan of the Republican Party of Orange County all along. After all, this is the mantra chanted by their hand-picked and placed candidate for City Council, Jim Righeimer. For months he has told public employee groups that he was going after their wage and benefit packages. The ONLY way to do that is through bankruptcy. It's clear that Baugh and his cohorts plan to use Costa Mesa as an experiment - as former Mayor Sandra Genis put it - a petri dish for state-wide pension reform, and that Righeimer wants to use our city as a stepping stone to higher office.

Following her vote last Tuesday Leece was summoned before the OC GOP Ethics Committee - an oxymoron if I ever read one - to answer for her transgression. You'd think Baugh and his minions thought they were Gods, commanding Leece to appear before them. That meeting never did happen because Leece, wisely, chose to consult the City Attorney and to take an attorney with her to the inquisition. According to a communication from Baugh, that encounter had to happen within 24 hours of the original complaint. I've read their bylaws. It's unclear what kind of authority they have to hand out ANY kind of punishment to Leece since she's not a member of the Central Committee.

It didn't take long to figure out what their punishment would be - they're going to pull out all the stops to keep her from being re-elected! Today's flier may be the first of more we'll see before Tuesday. Without giving her a reasonable opportunity to present her position they have chosen to attack her - to eat their own.

I thought I'd investigate just what kind of creatures actually do eat their own. I found an interesting article online written a few years ago in the New York Times entitled "They Eat Their Own; the Question is Why", which discusses that very thing. In it, while discussing what kind of societies and critters actually do eat their own, the author says "Chimps seem to do it as an act of revenge or in a burst of malice." Well, there you have it! Except for the spelling of one word, this seems to be exactly what has happened. The chumps of the OC GOP, in a burst of malice, have decided to devour Wendy Leece!

Today, in our society there is an organized movement to identify and prohibit bullying, primarily in school settings. So pervasive has this behavior become that entire programs in school curricula have been established to combat it. This situation between Leece and the OC GOP is a perfect example of bullying - a trait usually attributed to young folks

In my circle of friends, family and associates there are many Republicans and Democrats and many for whom I have no clue of their political persuasion. None of those I know to be Republicans could ever be described as a bully. Nope, they're just nice folks - like my wife and myself. However, a few of the folks presently active in Costa Mesa politics who are identified as Republicans seem to lean toward bullying as a management technique. A few, but not all.

Among those who I think demonstrate bullying behavior are current Planning Commission Chairman Jim Righeimer - part of the inner circle of the Orange County Republican Party and practically a conjoined twin with Scott Baugh. Some of Righeimer's close associates also use bullying to get their way - they've been mentioned here before.

A perfect example of this behavior in this election cycle is the treatment of Chris McEvoy, a man I've described as Costa Mesa's Everyman. Because he presents an impediment to Righeimer being seated on the City Council, Righeimer's supporters have gone after him with a vengeance, spreading lies about his background and ignorantly fabricating issues where none exist. There is nothing the least bit subtle about their actions, either - just as there is nothing subtle about the rage that Scott Baugh and his fellows at the OC GOP obviously hold for Wendy Leece.

This behavior, in my opinion, is exactly the kind of behavior we can expect if Jim Righeimer is elected to the Costa Mesa City Council on Tuesday. He's demonstrated that characteristic over and over again while on the Planning Commission and during this campaign. He's failed at being elected anywhere before with good reason - other electorates saw him for what he is - an arrogant member of the OC GOP inner circle intent of having his way with our city. As I've said before, Righeimer and the OC GOP are like a swarm of locusts. They will land in our city, devour everything good and green, then fly off to greener pastures leaving waste and destruction in their wake.

Scott Baugh and the OC GOP should be ashamed of themselves for their treatment of Wendy Leece, who only did what she was elected to do by the voters of Costa Mesa - protect and serve our city to the best of her ability. Scott Baugh and his pals at the Orange County Republican Party should keep their grubby paws off Costa Mesa and stay the heck out of our politics! We may not be as urbane and sophisticated as other communities in Orange County (which may be why you've picked us as a target), but we were doing just fine until you morons decided to insert yourselves into our lives and infested us with folks like Chris Steel, Allan Mansoor, Eric Bever, Jim Righeimer and others. Leave us alone so we can sort out our problems without our elected leaders looking to you to provide the playbook. Some of us over here in Costa Mesa are actually smart enough to do that, you know. Unlike your boy, our current mayor, some of us are actually capable of generating an original thought or two and can actually build consensus within the community to get things done without the stench of your interference lingering in the air like a ripe outhouse. Go away, and take your band of bullies and their threats with you.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Candidate Forum Replay Schedules

Reports from around the town today indicate that the pre-election craziness continues. We hear via friends and neighbors that hundreds of McEvoy/Leece signs have been stolen.. don't know for sure. We hear that one activist familiar to many has been seen "leapfrogging" Righeimer signs over McEvoy signs. Tuesday cannot come too soon for me!

To help you understand each of the candidates a little more, below I present the replay schedule for the four (4) candidate forums held this year. These are also available for viewing via streaming video so I've provided those links, too.

Thanks very much to my good
friends and neighbors from the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbor's Group and to Dane Bora and Brad Long from Costa Mesa Television for collaborating to present a video view of the Eastside Neighbor's forum. This forum was, in my opinion, the best of the bunch, so I'm glad a wider audience has a chance to see it. As you know, budget constraints prohibited CMTV from recording that event. However, Eastsider Syndy Neyland made a tape of it, which she provided to CMTV, who worked some technological magic and have made it available to us for viewing. Kudos to all.





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Friday, October 29, 2010


On Tuesday, November 2nd, you will step into the voting booth and make choices that will affect our nation, state, county and city for decades to come.

In Costa Mesa this time around, in addition to State, City Council, School Board and special district candidates to consider, we will have Measure "L" on the ballot - a rare proposal to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) - sometimes known as the "bed tax". You'll find it at the very back of the Sample Ballot.

In my opinion, it's critical that all Costa Mesa voters give serious consideration to voting YES on Measure "L". Unless you've been on another planet for the past couple years you know that Costa Mesa, like most other cities, is in deep financial difficulty. Presently the city staff is trying to figure out how to overcome a nearly $6 million shortfall that remains after trimming most of the flesh off our municipal skeleton and re-negotiating contracts with our public employees. The city has drained more than $30 million from it's reserves in the past three years to come up with a balanced budget. Much of this is due to the condition of our national economy and the inability of our State legislators to put aside partisan bickering, make tough decisions and pass a budget. Costa Mesa is one of the cities who suffer from the State's incompetence - monies properly due the city have been commandeered by the State to help "fix" it's problems.


This brings us back to Measure "L". This measure, if passed, would increase the Transient Occupancy Tax in Costa Mesa from 6% (the lowest in Orange County and nearly the lo
west in the entire state) to 8% and, based on projections by the proponents, it may generate an additional $1.3 million in annual revenue to the city's general fund. This increase will represent about a $2.00 tax increase on an average Costa Mesa hotel room. Presently the median TOT in Orange County is 10.25%, so this modest increase will still place Costa Mesa among the lowest in the county and state.


Costa Mesa has not had an increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax rate since 1974!
Back then The Towering Inferno was the top grossing movie at just under $49 million for the year. Today that would be a good weekend for many movies. Little House On The Prairie staring the late Michael Landon debuted, beginning a nine-year run, and Johnny Miller was the PGA top money winner for the year with earnings of $353,022. That would be a winning purse for almost any tour event today. Since that time, as we all know, costs have increased dramatically, the population has doubled and the demand for municipal services has increased. Each time the issue of increasing the TOT was raised in the recent past it was rejected by the City Council. It finally took a financial crisis unlike anything previously seen in our city to get the current City Council to agree to place this issue before you, the voters, for your consideration.

Keep in mind that, unless you personally spend time in Costa Mesa hotels, this
tax increase will not affect you at all. This increase will be charged to guests in our city, those staying in our hotels and other establishments on a temporary basis. There are no downsides to this increase for Costa Mesa residents. It will mean more money in our general fund to pay for critical staff and services.

There is no opposing position in the ballot statement, so recently I went to Ed Fawcett, President of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce, to get his view on this tax increase. Ed told me that the Chamber completely understands why this modest increase is so essential to the financial well-being of our city and does not oppose it. No members of the Costa Mesa hospitality community - hotel owners and managers who collect it - have spoken against this measure.

After more than twenty years of not even having an opportunity to consider this subject, this is the year the voters of Costa Mesa finally have the chance to make their views known. This is the year that we all should vote YES on Measure "L".

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Leece Inquisition Canceled & Fairgrounds News

I received word from Wendy Leece this afternoon to inform us all that the Orange County Republican Party Ethics Committee meeting scheduled for 3:00 p.m. today, Thursday, did not happen. It seems that there were scheduling conflicts. Leece intended to take her lawyer with her, but couldn't do it at the previously scheduled time.

It was not p
ossible to re-schedule and, according to a note from Scott Baugh, the inquisition, er, interview had to take place within 24 hours of the original complaint because of the proximity to the election. So, nobody seems to know what will happen next - if anything. I checked their bylaws and there doesn't seem to be any prescribed punishment for simply doing her job as a Costa Mesa council member. I was looking for something about flogging in the public square, or being placed in stocks. We'll see...


In other news, apparently the Orange County Fair Board is considering legal action because of dispute over who actually owns the Fairgrounds. And, at their meeting today - which I did not attend - there was an agenda item to be discussed about late payment of rents by the operators of the Orange County MarketPlace, TelPhil Enterprises. You will recall that Jeff Teller of TelPhil was part of a group bidding on the Fairgrounds - both times around. It's possible that the MarketPlace will be found to be in default and asked to vacate the premises. Wouldn't that be an interesting turn of events?


Also, we understand that newly-elected Fair Board Chairman Dave Ellis and member Da
le Dykema have been tasked to reach out to the successful bidders, Facilities Management West, to ascertain their plans for next year's Fair should the deal actually go through. So much confusion swirling around and the Department of General Services still thinks they can close the deal by the end of November! Ha! Never a dull moment with the Fairgrounds...

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Why I Didn't Vote For Jim Righeimer

I apologize in advance for the length of this post. I can't say what needs to be said briefly. Have patience, please. As you know, I sent my absentee ballot in yesterday and it did not include a vote for Jim Righeimer for Costa Mesa City Council. That won't surprise most of you, but I thought I'd share my thoughts on my decision because, on the surface, Righeimer seems like he might be a perfect candidate. Heck, Steve Smith at the Daily Pilot thinks so! I think old Steve might just have a little man crush on Righeimer.
I've written many times referring to Righeimer as a "carpetbagger", because that's exactly what he is. He moved to Costa Mesa from Fountain Valley - a couple miles - in the spring of 2006, just as the election season was commencing. He was, and is, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher's campaign manager, which gave him lots of clout. He and Rohrabacher provided Allan Mansoor lots of support in his re-election run that year.

Shortly after the election it was time to appoint members to the Planning and Parks & Recreation Commissions. Righeimer submitted his application for the Planning Commission after the deadline had passed. When it came time to vote on applicants Mansoor voted not once but three times to reject his loyal foot soldier and fellow Westside Improver, Paul Bunney and chose Righeimer instead. This is the Righeimer who had lived in Costa Mesa only 5 months. It was a clear case of political patronage for the help he'd given Mansoor during his campaign.


During his tour on the Planning Commission, including his time as Chairman, Righeimer has demonstrated that he's a man of little patience and is more than willing to ignore the rules if he chooses. There simply is not enough space here to recount all those incidents, but I've seen him bully and berate applicants before the commission many times. He also attempts to micro-manage projects that appear before the commission, grilling applicants on issues that are well beyond the purview of the commissions authority.

After watching him in action on the Planning Commission it becomes very clear that he plans to try to re-make our city into a kind of re-furbished Irvine. Of course, most residents of this city choose NOT to live in such a controlled environment - they like Costa Mesa just the way it is, with clean streets, beautiful parks and convenient shopping.

Jim Righeimer has ne
ver been elected to public office before, although his cronies have appointed him to many high ranking jobs. That's kind of how he gets along in life, I guess, depending on the patronage of political allies for positions of authority. Every time he has run for political office he has failed. There are good reasons for that failure.

Righeimer has run companies in the past and has created his own companies, too. I really don't know what kind of a business manager he has been, but I do know that the division of SunCal Companies that he headed up went bankrupt. I also know, based on a long conversation I had with him a couple years ago, that he, personally, was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy due to business difficulties, but that he DID NOT file for bankruptcy. Instead, he took nine years to pay off his creditors. I have no reason to disbelieve his version of events. What does bother me, though, is what got him to that point in the first place and, even more important, the fact that some of those creditors were little guys - contractors and the like - who had their own bills to pay. I wonder how many of them faced bankruptcy because Righeimer took nine years to settle up?

While we're on the subject, this campaign seems to have brought out the worst in Righeimer. Maybe it brought out the REAL Jim Righeimer - I don't know. In any event, at one point he unleashed his pit bull lawyer/brother-in-law, Mark Bucher, who sent a letter to me and members of the Costa Mesa Police Association forbidding us from mentioning three specific issues relative to Righeimer because doing so would, in his mind, constitute defamation of his client/brother-in-law. Those issues were, to quote the letter directly, "claims that Mr. Righeimer has been arrested for being drunk in public, declared bankruptcy, and owned a property whose mortgage was foreclosed."

Well, I have no proof that Righeimer was ever arrested for being drunk in public. If I had proof I guess I'd feel OK about writing about it, especially since his camp has gone after Chris McEvoy with lies about his driving record. I have no knowledge about whether he ever had a home foreclosed or not, but someone may - why else would Bucher make a point of it? If I had proof of such an event I guess I'd feel OK about writing about it because it would demonstrate to us Righeimer's money-management skills. I did write about the bankruptcy issue, as stated above, but that was what I thought was a favorable report from Righeimer's standpoint.

The point here is that Bucher's letter was a preemptive strike against me and others, trying to abridge my rights of free speech guaranteed to all of us by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. An interesting irony here is that within 48 hours of receiving the letter from Bucher Righeimer was mentioning those issues himself on the campaign trail. So, all bets are off. They can't forbid me from talking about those issues, then turn around and talk about them!

MAKING PUBLIC EMPLOYEES HIS ENEMIESFrom the very beginning of his campaign it was clear that the Costa Mesa public employees were going to become Righeimer's "illegal aliens" - those folks that Allan Mansoor used to push his campaign forward. From the very first candidate forum that warm night in Mesa Verde - a couple blocks from his home - when he looked the members of the public safety associations present straight in the eye and told the audience that municipal pay and benefits were the problem with our budget and that he was going after them, you knew there was going to be fireworks. The employee associations understood what he was saying and counter-attacked with messages of their own. It has been the nastiest campaign I can recall.

Then there was the DUI Checkpoint event, in which Righeimer,
alone among the other 3,200 other drivers slowed by that checkpoint that evening, who parked in the McDonald's parking lot and strutted over to the officers conducting it to find out what they thought they were doing. I've heard the tape made available to us - many of you have - so we know the words that were spoken. They were unambiguous in my view. He demanded to know why the checkpoint was being held at that location at that time. He wanted to know if he had to talk with Chief (Chris)Shawkey. He demanded a meeting with the officer in charge, and later tried to schedule a meeting with Shawkey and City Manager Allan Roeder to, as he told the press, get to the bottom of it and make sure such things don't happen in the future. He identified himself not as a Costa Mesa resident, but as a planning commissioner. We can only assume he did so to influence the officers by the office he held. The "investigation" of that event conducted by City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow resulted in a quite unsatisfactory explanation - that Righeimer had not "committed a crime" that night. She never did answer the question about whether he abused his authority. Nor did she take into consideration a stack of witness statements presented to her the afternoon of her decision - there was not time, since they went immediately into a meeting. Transparency was not evident in this so-called investigation.
Then came "stink-eyegate". Councilman Eric Bever and his pal, long-time resident and fellow Westside Improver Christan Eric were observed by two Costa Mesa police officers as they placed Righeimer campaign signs on a fence at the intersection of 17th Street and Superior Avenue - on the empty lot that was previously a gas station. Apparently because it appeared to the officers that the fence, and the signs, might be too close to the public right-of-way, they made a total of three passes at the site, including the final one in which they stopped and took cell phone photographs and forwarded them to their supervisor for guidance.
Bever and Eric, apparently unnerved by the attention they received from the Costa Mesa police, reported the event to Chief Shawkey and, a couple days later, called a press conference at the site to demand an investigation into what they referred to as " police intimidation" - that the police officers had given them "the stink-eye" - a term I'd not heard since junior high school. Attending this press conference in addition to Bever and Eric were Righeimer, Supervisor John Moorlach, Righeimer lapdog and planning commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick and Mark Bucher - the lawyer/brother-in-law. As he said the word, "intimidation" I watched and he actually did keep a straight face.
The result of that press conference/demand was that Chief Shawkey hired an independent investigator to look into this issue. The results of that investigation are still pending. Clearly, this was a contrived event, designed to cast the Costa Mesa police in a negative light - as a bunch of out-of-control, over-paid cowboys who deserved to have their compensation cut. The only word that comes to mind is "despicable". Shame on Righeimer and his tacticians for this self-serving attempt to denigrate those men and women who put their lives on the line for all of us every day.
Along the campaign trail Righeimer's team apparently realized that young Chri
s McEvoy - a nearly life-long Costa Mesa resident and high school math teacher in his second campaign, operating the barest of bare-bones campaigns - might actually be a threat. McEvoy seemed to be striking a chord with folks at campaign forums and it had Righeimer worried. Word is that polling had them neck-in-neck as they turned for home in the campaign. So, since McEvoy stood in the way of Righeimer and the big chair on the City Council, they began attacking him with lies about an alleged DUI arrest more than four years ago. In the press via local blogs and on the Daily Pilot comment threads their anonymous attack dogs continued to spread the lie. The truth is, which McEvoy has acknowledged and apologized for, is that he was stopped on SUSPICION of driving under the influence and reckless driving. He took a field sobriety test and asked to take a blood test instead of a breath test at the site. He knew the blood test would be more accurate. The result of that test showed that his blood alcohol level did NOT exceed the legal limit. He left the police station assuming this was a dead issue, only to be informed later by the District Attorney that he was going to be tried for the DUI - even though his blood alcohol level passed the test. He did what many of us would do - he hired a lawyer. The case dragged on and on until, eight months later, he and his lawyer told the court they were ready for trial. The next day the DA asked for a conference, at which Chris, based on his lawyer's advice, plead guilty to reckless driving and the bogus alleged DUI was dropped. He WAS NOT convicted of a DUI, yet Righeimer's minions continue - to this day - spread the lie.

EMPLOYEE NEGOTIATIONSThe city is in bad financial condition and has been working on modifications of the employee agreements for most of the summer and fall. Negotiations went back and forth, trying to find a common ground that would help the city financially yet not put the burden of this fiscal distress directly on the backs of the employees. The firefighters presented a plan to modify their contract - they were NOT required to do so, this was completely voluntary - that will save the city well over $600,000 per year. Each month that this agreement would have been delayed would cost the city over $50,000.
Since Righeimer's only platform plank was chopping the wage and benefit packages of the public employee groups, having them successfully negotiate agreements with the city before the election undermined his plan. Councilman Eric Bever - the Righeimer campaign supporter in the stink-eye affair - announced from the dais that he was unhappy with the way things were going, so he was boycotting future negotiating sessions with the bargaining units. The only thing that might accomplish would be to slow the process, to push it closer and closer to the election. In fact, he stated publicly that he thought it didn't make any sense to have the outgoing council sign agreements with the bargaining units - the job they were elected to do. He was intentionally obstructing the process, which might have resulted in Righeimer being elected and landing on the council as some kind of a savior to "fix" things.


However, this plan went out the window when the bargaining units did reach agreement with the city last week and, at a special council meeting, the agreements were approve on a 3-2 vote, with Bever and Mansoor voting NO. Both Mansoor and Bever tried to quash the votes. Wendy Leece laid her political future on the line when she voted with Katrina Foley and Gary Monahan to approve the agreements. If those agreements had been rejected or continued until after the elections it would have cost the city more than $250,000 per month for each month of delay. Bever, in order to lay the groundwork for Righeimer, was willing to cost the city upwards of $500,000.
I confirmed with City officials this week that the ONLY way the employee contracts and wage scales can be reduced would be for the City to declare bankruptcy and thereby VOID ALL CITY CONTRACTS, including those of the employee units. This would be cataclysmic for our city. Vallejo, in northern California, tried this in the spring of 2008 and it is still in bankruptcy, with lawsuits dragging out the resolution of their problems. From a purely practical standpoint, if that happened here we would 1) immediately loose many senior staffers to retirement, 2) lose public safety staffers to other cities nearby who had not implemented such a draconian measure, 3) have an extremely difficult time recruiting staffers to replace those departed and 4) the levels of service in our city would drop well below acceptable levels because of inadequate or inexperienced staff. It would be chaos and it would take years - maybe decades - to recover from.

A quick sidebar... Because of her votes Tuesday evening the Orange County Republican
Party has summoned Leece to an Ethics Committee meeting at party headquarters this afternoon to be held accountable TO THEM for her votes. Leece agonized over her decisions, weighing her personal political future against the welfare of our city. Now Righeimer's running buddies of the OC GOP are going to grill her - and probably penalize her - for doing what we elected her to do. It's this kind of arrogance of power that Righeimer and his compatriots in the hierarchy of the OC GOP demonstrate with way too much frequency.
Some of Righeimer's supporters are advocating "bullet-voting" to get the
ir guy elected. That is, they want the voters to only use one of their two votes - vote for Righeimer and no other. This, too, is arrogance of power and an attempt to rob the voters of their right to select the two candidates they feel will best serve our city. Don't be fooled by Righeimer's unofficial spokesman, The Mouth From Mesa North over at the CM Press - don't let him fast-talk you into giving up your votes just to perpetuate what he sees as a great opening to "fix" our city. He's been trying this for more than a decade - his first attempt (and failure) was the election of Chris Steel using the same tactics. That was a disaster of a different type, but a disaster, nonetheless. Steel later saw the light and turned his back on The Mouth - which might have cost him re-election. You can think of Righeimer as a cunning Chris Steel - a man smart enough and devious enough to do real damage to our city.
LIKE LOCUSTS...In my opinion, this is what Jim Righeimer would do to our city if given the opportunity. Of course, he really doesn't care about Costa Mesa. He's a carpetbagging, opportunistic political gypsy. He and his pals at the Orange County Republican Party don't give a whit about Costa Mesa. They are intent on, as former mayor Sandra Genis has said, using Costa Mesa as a laboratory experiment for pension reform. They are like locusts - they land in our city, devour everything good and green, then fly off to greener pastures leaving destruction in their wake.


Those are among the many reasons I did not vote for Jim Righeimer for Costa Mesa City Council. Any questions?

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