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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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

GOP Summons Leece For "Ethics" Probe

Well, it sure didn't take long to find out what the Orange County Republican Party hierarchy thought about Wendy Leece's votes last night. I'm sure she knew that her decision to support the bargaining unit contracts would get her some flack, but today she found out what the first burst of flack will be.

Leece has been summoned before the Ethics Committee at Republican Party Headquarter
s tomorrow, Thursday, at 3:00 p.m. to "discuss your vote last night and the promise you made to the Central Committee members at the September 20th meeting."


to correspondence provided to me, she will consult with Costa Mesa City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow before attending the meeting to determine just how much of her decision-making process she can discuss with the Ethics Committee without violating confidentiality rules. Apparently, some of what was discussed in that abrupt closed session meeting last night came into play as she deliberated about her position. And, she will take an attorney with her to the meeting.

Once again the heavy hand of the Orange County GOP shows itself. Obviously,
their attempts to intimidate her via emails and voice mails over the weekend and by having GOP operative Jon Fleishman perch right in front of her last night to give her the old "stink eye" didn't have the anticipated outcome. Nope, Wendy did what she felt what was best for the city and voted, along with Katrina Foley and Gary Monahan, to approve the agreements and the resolution for the executive staff.

The vote was not easy for any of them - except for Eric Bever and Allan Mansoor, who are not burdened with the need to actually consider issues because their party tells them what to think and what to do. They could just do their zombie routine and vote the party line, and not consider the damage it will do to the city. How very nice for them.

For Leece, Foley and Monahan, though, the decisions they made last night were g
ut-wrenching. Each of them, but Leece and Monahan in particular, laid a lot on the line when they cast their votes. It was clear to any observer in the audience last night that they each agonized with the decision and weighed it carefully before pushing that button on the dais.

Wendy Leece has much to lose. It appears that she will certainly lose any support for her re-election run for the next week. Whether the OC GOP decides to do more than simply not support her is unc
lear. It is quite possible, considering their tactics in this election so far, that they might take an active anti-Leece role in the remaining days before the election on Tuesday. I wouldn't be surprised.


Monahan also has a
lot on the line. He's not as tight with the GOP bosses, but he does have a struggling restaurant to operate. We'll see how many customers actually understand that what he did with his votes last night was best for the city right now. I hope they will reward his courage by increasing their patronage of his gin mill - he deserves it.

So, now we wait for the decision of the Orange County Republican Party Ethics Committee. Will they scold Wendy, censure her or attempt to toss her out of the party? What other punishment might they dish out to her for
not following the party line - which could have led to the bankruptcy of our city, by the way. We'll see...


Come to think about it, that "Ethics Committee" has probably been pretty darn busy lately if the shenanigans of certain members of the GOP in Costa Mesa are any indication. Intimidation via threatening letters, abuse of power at the DUI checkpoint, frivolous claims of police misconduct, etc. In fact, the very phrase "GOP Ethics Committee" seems kind of oxymoronic.

I do know one thing, though. Over the past year Wendy Leece has shown much mor
e gumption than I expected. She's been more conciliatory and seemed to try to work more on actual resolution of issues and not get stuck in the quicksand of party dogma. All of this has been good for the city. A year ago I probably would have told you I wouldn't vote to retain her on the council. Not so today. This afternoon, when my absentee ballot went in the mail, it carried my vote for Wendy Leece for City Council.

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