Friday, October 08, 2010

Candidate Forum Viewing Schedules

Well, we're staring yet another warm and glorious weekend in the face and I doubt many of you will want to sacrifice your special time to wade further into the political morass that has become Costa Mesa politics this year. However, if you do wish to educate yourselves about some of the candidates beyond the rhetoric that is appearing here and in the press elsewhere, here's some information that will be helpful to you. Even if you don't watch these programs this weekend, they will run on the schedules indicated through the election. The streaming video links may be viewed anytime.

Before I list the play schedules of the first three candidate forums for you I will remind you that next Thursday, October 14th, my friends from the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbor's Group will host the last council candidate forum before the election. This one, as was the case with the first one in August hosted by Mesa Verde Community, Inc., will be a "pure" forum - not contaminated by the presence of Newport Beach candidate or School Board hopefuls. The doors open at 6:30 at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue. (Lions Park) for a "meet and greet". The formal part, moderated by Eastsider Marnie Primmer, will run from 7-8:30, with another short opportunity for chatting up the candidates following.

Unfortunately, this forum WILL NOT be televised, either live or taped for future viewing. My Eastside friends had the opportunity to conduct their forum in the City Council chambers and have it televised live and placed into the tape rotation, but opted to to decline that invitation. Your last chance to see the candidates in action will be live next Thursday. See you there.

While we're on the subject of television, a tip of the hat to Dane Bora and Brad Long from Costa Mesa Television for providing most of the coverage you'll see on these schedules. You'll see I caught their good sides at the Mesa Verde forum here. Through their tireless efforts and professionalism they continue to provide Costa Mesa residents with excellent video records of important events in our community. I encourage you to check the program schedule on the city web site - there's a link at the bottom right corner of the Home Page - to see the most recent productions. It's great stuff!

The first candidate forum of this election cycle was hosted on August 18th by Mesa Verde Community, Inc., and was a good jumping off point. Moderator Darnell Wyrick did a great job of moving things along. I've written about it before, HERE. You may wish to view the proceedings on CMTV Channel 24 (or Channel 99 on ATT UVerse). Or, you may wish to view it on streaming video at the city web site, HERE. The following is the program schedule for that forum:

The second forum, the "Feet To The Fire" forum, was held on September 30th at the Neighborhood Community Center and was a very special event because it included council candidates from both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. The moderator was Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia - dressed in a completely appropriate "flaming" outfit - and the interrogators were the cream of the local media crop - Register columnist Frank Mickadeit, Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, Voice of OC Editor-in-chief Norberto Santana, Jr. and Newport Independent Editor Roger Bloom. I reported on it HERE. If you wish to view the streaming video provided by Newport Beach TV and placed in the Costa Mesa rotation you can do so HERE. The following is the program schedule for that event on CMTV and UVerse:
The final televised forum was the one hosted by Costa Mesa United on Wednesday, October 6th, also at the Neighborhood Community Center. This was another hybrid, with Costa Mesa council candidates being joined by candidates for seats in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees. Only candidates in contested seats were invited. The thrust of this forum was "Academics, Athletics and Activities", and it was moderated by Costa Mesa United Board President Gordon Bowley. You can read my report HERE. Interrogators for this forum were John Canalis, Daily Pilot Sports Editor Steve Virgen and Newport Beach Independent Publisher Tom Johnson. If you wish to view the streaming video click HERE. The following is the program schedule for that forum on CMTV and ATT Uverse:

If you follow the local media you know that the Costa Mesa City Council race is really heating up. The way it's headed now, it looks like it may be the most unsavory campaign locally in my memory. The tension between candidate Jim Righeimer and the public employee unions is palpable. There are so many unpleasant incidents now that it's just painful to recall all of them. It now appears that an innocent bystander in this fray, candidate Chris McEvoy, is going to be drawn into the battle, with Righeimer's crew now threatening to publicize an alcohol-related arrest McEvoy had several years ago - something he spoke about openly the last time he ran two years ago. I'll comment on how this race is going later. For now, please use this entry as a reference point when you wish to hear the candidates word unedited. Happy viewing...

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Costa Mesa United Forum A Success

Thanks to the good folks of Costa Mesa United for a very successful candidate forum Wednesday night. It was the first time in memory when city council candidates and school board candidates mixed it up on the same stage. Left to right in the above photo are Chris McEvoy, Susan Lester, Chad Petschl, Wendy Leece, Jim Righeimer, Michael Collier, Judy Franco, Katrina Foley and Loretta Zimmerman.


Costa Mesa United Boa
rd President Gordon Bowley performed as moderator, assisted by Colin McCarthy, who posed the first barrage of questions to the candidates. The three panelists who later asked their own set of questions were Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, Daily Pilot Sports Editor Steve Virgen and Newport Independent Publisher Tom Johnson.


I didn't count heads, but I think the peak number of attendees was around 200 interested souls, including more than fifty young people of high school age. Estancia High School cheerleaders passed out question cards and pencils. Unfortunately, time constraints prohibited any of the audience questions to be used.

The forum was generally cordial, with candidates presentin
g their strengths instead of dwelling on opponents weaknesses. I say "generally" because there were exceptions.. more on that later.


I'm not going to try to give you a word-for-word analysis of the event. Costa Mesa TV was present taping the event. This forum will be replayed beginning Saturday, October 9th and subsequently through the election on the following schedule:
Tuesdays: 6:00 p.m.

Wednesdays: 1:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 5:30 p.m.
Sundays: 9:00 a.m.

I'll be posting a separate entry listing all the replay times for each of the previous three forums, including the links for the streaming video, soon.


The evening wa
s not without it's tense moments, beginning with the scene outside in the parking lot where members of the CMPD hovered, awaiting the arrival of their signboard trailer, which apparently will be driven around town and was parked directly outside the Neighborhood Community Center last night. You can see the message in this photo. One of the comical parts of this situation was the vision of Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick - a Righeimer acolyte - skulking around near the group of officers, apparently trying to hear what they were saying. This photo shows him hiding behind a tree near the group. Ah, the games we play.
My general impressions of the event:

Katrina Foley was the best prepared and provided the best answers to the questions. Everyone else was a distant second and beyond. She clearly had the best grasp of all the issues, including those specific to the school board races. She drew the most enthusiastic response from the crowd.


Chris McEvoy seemed to lead the popular vote for the council race. His answers to many questions drew cheers from the crowd. And, he also made the statement that quieted the crowd, too. At the end, following Jim Righeimer's self-serving comment about being "attacked" by police unions for his position on salaries and benefits - McEvoy directed a statement specifically to Righeimer when he told him that the police and fire unions were not the only people who didn't want to see Righeimer elected to the City Council. He said that there are many more people who don't want him elected, too. You could have heard a pin drop

Sue Lester seemed intent on proving she was not simply a one-issu
e candidate. With each forum she seems to have a little better grasp of municipal issues.

Chad Petschl, a very nice, well-intentioned young man, is in way, way over his head. He
has virtually no grasp of the issues in the city and particularly school board issues. He attempted to answer questions with broad, almost irrelevant replies that clearly demonstrated his lack of knowledge.

Wendy Leece, once again, gave good answers - just as you would expect from a person with years of public service on the council and school board under her belt. Some of her answers were at odds with those of Righeimer that you could almost see her campaign stepping ever so slightly away f
rom the GOP power-brokers who have moved into Costa Mesa. This is good news as far as I'm concerned. I don't agree with Wendy on many issues, but her willingness to hear opposing views and vote with her brain and conscience instead of falling in lock-step with the party line is a good sign.

Jim Righeimer gave answers you'd expect from him, emphasizing budget issues. He
did get off the stupidest statement of the night when he said that "you could double the police budget today and it wouldn't change crime in Costa Mesa one iota." He was looking directly at the representatives of the police and fire unions present at that time. You could hear jaws dropping throughout the room! Elsewhere during the forum he said the police union is spending $100,000 to defeat him. As each day passes, and he exhibits such strange behavior, it's becoming more and more clear just why he has NEVER been successful in any municipal election in the past. It's my hope that his record will remain intact on November 2nd.

Of the four school board candidates present, Katrina Foley gave the best performance, as mentioned above.

Judy Franco's replies seemed more scripted - she did, in fact, read many of them. She should be commended for her three decades on the school board. Certainly, she has experience and has developed contacts over her term in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. that are valuable.


Her opponent, Loretta Zimmerman, made clear, crisp replies - most of which were tilted toward the analytical side of issues and she frequently plugged her CERT training background, expressing the opinion that she hoped to get the youth involved in that program, too.

Michael Collier, who is attempting to retain his seat on the board, emphasized what he called "Academic Rigor" - getting the students to study harder.

All in all, it was a good forum, where some interesting questions were vetted. Take the time to view the streaming video or the recorded taped replay on Channel 24 and 99 on ATT Uverse.

It's clear that tensions are rising between Righeimer and the public employee unions. This, of course, will be exacerbated by a commentary that appears today in the Daily Pilot co-authore
d by Councilman Eric Bever and Orange County Supervisor and Costa Mesa resident John Moorlach. You can read it HERE. They make no bones about it - they want to stall the negotiations on the employee contracts and budget resolution until AFTER the election, which means until after the new city council is seated in December. This is completely unacceptable and the fact that Bever has basically withdrawn from his civic responsibilities by boycotting the discussions to the point that he walked out of a recent meeting and failed to show up at the last council meeting only further demonstrates his unfitness for the job he was re-elected to do two years ago. If it wasn't such a costly project I suggest mounting a recall effort to remove him from office before he does even more damage to our city!

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Bland Council Meeting - Fireworks Later

Funny thing happened last night. I went to the Costa Mesa Council meeting - got there before 5
, in fact, so I could see what, if anything, might be said before the council adjourned to a closed session. Not much. Former mayor Sandra Genis reminded them that they could only discuss price and terms of the Fairgrounds Sale in that segment of the closed session - nothing else. Yeah, like that happened! Unlike previous weeks, when the chambers were packed with orderly demonstrators from the public safety organizations, there were only a couple of us in the audience. When the council returned at 6:30 after having discussed the four items on the closed session agenda and began plowing through the rest of the evening's agenda there were only a couple dozen people in the auditorium -mostly the "usual suspects" - and the remainder of the agenda was uninspiring. If you really want to you can watch it HERE.

The Mesa Consolidated Water District, at least 4/5ths of it, was honored for the 50th anniversary of the water
district. Congrats to the district, who decided to celebrate with a VIP event - no members of the public were included. Ah, the lives our bureaucratic aristocracy leads...

ng Council Member Comments Katrina Foley asked City Manager Allan Roeder for a brief report on just where we stand on the Fairgrounds deal. Let me summarize his comments - he said things are at a standstill and, "it does not look good", further indicating that he anticipates a legal challenge regardless how the sale turns out. Foley asked the City Attorney for a report on the legal remedies available to the City on the Fairgrounds Sale. That set the tone for much of the rest of the meeting.

When it came time for the council to address the two re-hearing requests filed by Genis the council made quick, unenthusiastic work of them by voting each request down. It was clear following those discussions and Roeder's earlier comments that the heart pretty much has gone out of our negotiating team on the Fairgrounds sale and lease. Genis may have gotten off the best line of the night when, discussing the recent closure of bidding on the new RFP, it was learned that Facilities Management West had presented a bid directly to the State, she said, "This all may be moot. From what I read in the newspapers, it looks like our prom date may be going to the dance without us."


At the tail end of the meeting the council passed the new, tougher Graffiti abatement ordinance - the product of more than a year's work by the staff. Resident John Feeney, normally a sometimes amusing, always grumpy curmudgeon when speaking before the council, lavished well-deserved praise on Officer Jason Chamness for his efforts to craft this new ordinance and for spearheading the visible improvement of graffiti issues around our town.


By the way, I teased in an earlier post anticipating this meeting that Councilman Eric
Bever might pout during the contract negotiations in the closed session. I was wrong. Nope, Bever was a no-show for the entire meeting. I guess when he says he's boycotting, he means he's boycotting his entire job as a councilman. Perhaps someone can go back and check the records to see just how many other meeting's he's missed in the past year or so. It could well be that he's just adjusting his work hours to fit the pay reduction the council agreed to take last year. More likely that Bever is throwing a little fit of petulance because he's been roundly criticized for his pronouncement about boycotting negotiations. We didn't miss him...


The real e
xcitement of the evening occurred AFTER the meeting was over and I returned home and checked my computer. In an online article that will likely appear in print today, HERE, Daily Pilot reporters Joseph Serna and Mona Shadia report that there's a new website up and running,, that - according to the article - is the product of members of the Costa Mesa Police Department. Apparently Righeimer once owned this domain but missed a payment so it was snatched up by someone else. To say this site will be inflammatory is the understatement of the year! By the time I saw the site it had gone viral throughout Costa Mesa - many Facebook page entries and white-hot emails flew through the ether. I find myself wondering how the content on this site will square with the letter I received from Righeimer's lawyer last week? I guess we'll find out.


I'm thinking the candidate forum scheduled for this evening may take on a very different dynamic because of this new website. We'll see in a fe
w hours. See you there.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Costa Mesa United Candidate Forum Tomorrow

Tomorrow evening, Wednesday, October 6th, Costa Mesa United will host the next Costa Mesa Candidate Forum. The event will be held at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (Lions Park). The formal event will run from 6-8:30 p.m. but Rich Dunn, who is helping organize the event, tells me that the doors will open at 5 for the candidates to set up their tables and for a little meet and greet. Water and coffee will be available.

As was the case with the previous forum last week, this will be a hybrid and will feature a format unlike any in recent memory. In this forum all the candidates for Costa Mesa City Council plus the candidates in contested elections for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees will be on the dais together to be interrogated by a panel on issues of common interest to both the City Council and School Board. The theme is Academics, Athletics and Activities.

Moderator Gordon Bowley, President of Costa Mesa United, will guide a panel of interrogators comprised of Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, Newport Beach Independent Publisher Tom Johnson, Time-Warner Cable Regional Producer Valerie Starn and Daily Pilot Sports Editor Steve Virgen. Dunn advises me that audience questions may be taken at some point in the proceedings.

This event will be taped by Costa Mesa TV for later viewing, so if you can't make the event you'll be able to see it either on CMTV, Channel 24 (99 on ATT Uverse) or on streaming video on the city's web site. In a related matter, the tape of the previous forum last week should be available for viewing sometime Wednesday.

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Council/OCFA Cross-Dressing Tonight

Tonight's regularly scheduled Costa Mesa City Council meeting is going to be just a little different. Tonight the council and the Orange County Fairgrounds Authority (the Joint Powers Authority created to facilitate the acquisition of the Orange County Fair and Event Center) will slip back and forth into their respective robes - sometimes wearing both - as they try to deal with the complex issues that face this city. It may be kind of like the changing room of a fashion runway show!

First, at 5:00 p.m., they will meet in closed session as both entities. Why, y
ou ask? Well there are four items on the closed session agenda - two affect the council specifically and two affect the OCFA. There are two lawsuits, one affecting each of them, and two other matters. For the council, there is the labor negotiations (we assume Eric Bever will take a bathroom break, run out for a quick meal or just go sit in his car and pout while this is going on since he's already announced he's boycotting future negotiations). Then, for the OCFA, there is a "conference with Real Property Negotiators" for the Fairgrounds purchase/lease. It wouldn't surprise me if this one is to formally throw up their hands and give up on this process. Seems likely, since there are at least three (3) bidders for the Fairgrounds under the new RFP and it's obvious that the legislature is simply not going to pass the bill necessary to enable our sale to go forward. It's time to stop.

Maybe, just to make us feel better, we could craft a resolution condemning the Department of General Services for the unfair and obstructionist deadlines and rules they imposed upon the City during this process. To appropriately capture the spirit of the message we could send it on letterhead that includes an image of a hand with only the middle finger extended. No, I don't mean, "We're Number 1!"

Then, sometime after 6, the council will convene it's regular meeting and dispense with the public comments, council comments and the consent calendar.

Then, once again, they will shift gears and convene a
s the OCFA to hear two Old Business items from former mayor Sandra Genis, who will appear as the President of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society to challenge the two resolutions previously passed by the OCFA.

Then they will jump back into their City Council garb and hold a public hearing on modifications to the city ordinance regarding solid waste haulers within the city. The first item under Public Hearings - the Triangle Square LED lig
hts issue - has been withdrawn.


Under New Business they will appoint or re-appoint members to the Cultural Arts Committee, Historical Preservation Committee and the Redevelopment and Residential Rehabilitation (3R) Committee.

At the end of the meeting they will consider a very significant change to our current Graffiti ordinance - one that will tighten up enforcement and require restitution by the guilty parties or their parents. This was discussed in their Study Session a couple weeks ago.


It is unknown whether there will be any sort of demonstration by employee bargaining units as been the case the past two meetings.


Neither is it known whether City Attorney Kim Barlow will present the results of her investigation into the Righeimer/DUI checkpoint issue. The tapes made at the event were released to the public, but it is our understanding that several witnesses had to be interviewed and their testimony assessed. Time's a'wastin' on this one, Ms. Barlow. The election is less than one month away.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

3 Fairgrounds Bidders Identified - So Far

While nobody has officially signed the death certificate on the deal between the City of Costa Mesa and the State of California on the purchase of the Orange County Fair and Event Center, it certainly appears that the grave has been dug to a sufficient depth and that all we're waiting for is for the body to be rolled in, covered up and the epitaph carved on the headstone. Might I suggest, "Here lies a deal, doomed from the start. Politics and greed drove a stake through it's heart." The State has a budget - without a rider authorizing the sale - and the legislature is now in recess - without signing the enabling legislation. I guess we're all done but the official pronouncement. Who knows - that may come at the City Council meeting scheduled for tomorrow.

In the meantime, as previously mentioned, Facilities Management West has submitted a bid for the Orange County Fair and Event Center under the August Request for Proposals issued by the State Department of General Services in August.

The Orange County Register, in it's coverage recently, announ
ced that American Fairs and Festivals - a previous bidder and whose team includes Jeff Teller of the Orange County MarketPlace - has also submitted a bid for the property. I spent some time on the telephone with Teller today, who confirmed that he and the American Fairs and Festivals team are, indeed, bidders on the property.

Also submitting a separate bid is Advanced Real Estate Services of Lake Forest, who was previously partnered-up with American Fairs and Festivals in it's negotiations with the City of Costa Mesa this past spring in an attempt to put together a package for the acquisition and lease of the Fairgrounds from The State. That consortium was shoved aside in favor of Facilities Management West at the last minute.

According to Richard Julian, President of Advanced Real Estate Services, they have submitted a bid which slightly exceeded the minimum amount required by the state - $96 million - and are looking forward November 14th - the date the DGS has indicated will be the time when the successful bidder will be announced.

In a conversation with Eric Lamoreaux of the DGS today he indicated that there MAY
NOT be an announcement of the successful bidder on that date - the DGS may wait until they have actually negotiated with their choice of bidders before making an announcement. I have no idea why we should expect transparency in this deal now, since there has been very little throughout this process.

During my conversation with Mr. Julian today we discussed other projects they've developed or have in the works. One of them is a development in San Juan Capistrano called The Meadows, which will include single family homes, condos and apartments AND a world-class EQUESTRIAN CENTER. I mention this for you horse folks out there to contemplate. It was clear to me during our conversation that Mr. Julian and his team understand the intrinsic value of equestrian facilities... something to chew on.


So, the beat goes on. We have at least three separate players in this game who have previo
usly expressed interest and have previously submitted bids. Let's hope the DGS will be able to make a decision and an announcement at the earliest possible date. The residents of Costa Mesa, the elected leadership of our city and the hard-working staff all deserve to have an idea of the future of the Fairgrounds soon.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

CMOfcr Speaks Out

Just before midnight a person who chose the pen name of CMOfcr posted a comment on my recent blog entry regarding the letter I received from Planning Commission Chairman and city council candidate Jim Righeimer's lawyer (and brother-in-law). You can read that entry HERE. In fact, CMOfcr was apparently so excited, or agitated, about getting his comment posted that he submitted it twice, a minute apart. Either that or my blog host, Blogger, had the hiccups, which happens from time to time.

Regardless, I received it and only noticed it this morning. I posted the comment on the correct blog entry, but felt it was too important, too powerful, to leave to chance my readers seeing it. So, I've also published it on this entry, below.

Before some of you loyal, but critical, readers get your shorts in a wad, I fully admit to a pro-police bias. Actually, it's a pro-public safety bias, because I also admire and support the efforts of those brave men and women in the fire service. Many of you know my best friend since we both were five years old was a career Los Angeles Police Department officer - 31 years on the job before retiring. Through him I know many, many other police officers - men and women I admire for their dedication and sacrifice as they "protect and serve" us all. Recent events in our city have also introduced me to officers on the Costa Mesa Police Department.

I do not know the identity of CMOfcr, but since he or she has seen the letter sent to me and members of the CMPD, I will assume the writer is, in fact, an officer in the Costa Mesa Police Department. I'm grateful for this comment because it provides us with a little perspective in this highly volatile issue.

Without further editorial comment, here is the submission in it's unedited entirety. I tinkered with it, breaking it into paragraphs to make it more easily read, but that's it:

I have been a Costa Mesa resident for over 30 years. My wife and I are raising our children here, my folks still live in town. This is home. I’m sure that I have a lot in common with my fellow residents. Besides living here, I am also a Costa Mesa Police Officer. I have seen the letter from Mr. Righeimer’s attorney. Frankly I find it appalling. This blog and others on our community have tried to show Righeimer for what he is, and it frightens him. Hence, he lets his attorney loose. Mr. Righeimer rails against the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), and the pay of our officers and firefighters. However, his representation of the “facts” in his guest editorial, are false. Jim states that a police officer or firefighter can retire at age 50 with “98%” of their salary. That is absolutely untrue.

Under PERS, an employee can collect no more than 90% of their salary at retirement. The safety retirement formula is “3% at 50”. That means an employee is eligible to collect retirement at age 50, and earns 3% per year of service. Thus, it would take 30 years to attain the maximum of 90%. Since you can not become a police officer until age 21 at a minimum, you would have to start at you 21st birthday, work 30 years and retire after 51 to get 90%.

Most officers don’t start until their mid 20’s, so they will retire in their mid 50’s with 30 years of service.
To confuse things even further, the PERS safety retirement was not always 3 at 50. It was 2 at 50. When that formula existed, Costa Mesa was one of only a handful of police agencies to have 3 at 50 in the state. How? The city contributed the employee’s contribution to PERS for 2 at 50, while the employee paid into a 1% annuity to get 3 at 50.

When PERS made 3 at 50 available for all safety retirements, Costa Mesa came under that program. At the time, the police employees gave up the 1% annuity they had been paying into. That money did not come back to the employees. It went into the city’s general fund. Fair enough, since the city was paying the employee’s contribution to PERS.
As far as pay goes: Costa Mesa officers are neither the highest, nor lowest paid officers in the county. We are right in the middle. In fact we have never asked or negotiated to anywhere else. We have always negotiated to be “median”. That fact, however, doesn’t play into the whining, overpaid money grubbing image that Righeimer and his ilk choose to portray. The Police Association, in fact has always enjoyed a good working relationship with city management.

I would also like to point out that the Police Association is not a union. I know some will say it is a matter of semantics, but there are some very fundamental differences. Association membership is optional. An officer can opt in or out at any time. Police agencies are not “union shops” where “union” membership is a condition of employment. Second the Police Association is a registered non-profit organization and makes a number of charitable donations to community groups and events in Costa Mesa every year. Some at the request of Righeimer’s crony Steve Mensinger. The POA makes contributions to his pet football programs every year. Apparently he didn’t get Jim’s memo about taking “union” money. Third, police officers can not and will not strike. We do not hold the city or its citizens hostage, until they bend to our will for pay and benefits. We negotiate and MUTUALLY agree to terms with the city leadership.

Again, we have always had a good working relationship. The police association is no more a union then the National Rifle Association is a union for firearms enthusiasts. Again, that doesn’t fit into Righeimer’s rhetoric.