Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Anticipating The Righeimer Honeymoon

In anticipation of the first council meeting of the "new era" - the kinder, gentler, more conciliatory era - next Tuesday I thought I'd present some food for thought.

It is widely assumed that we will see Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer elevated to the big chair and become Mayor on December 4th.  Logic also tells us that his pal, Steve Mensinger, will be elected Mayor Pro Tem.  These moves will likely result in Wendy Leece and returning councilwoman Sandra Genis being relegated to the outside seats on the dais - they will be on the outside looking in, both literally and figuratively.

I heard Righeimer's words of conciliation at the last council meeting and, despite my serious apprehensions, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  I'm willing to give him a chance to demonstrate the "New Righeimer".  I'm willing to join Orange County Employee Association General Manager Nick Berardino - who showed up at the last council meeting with harmonious words of his own - in taking Righeimer at his word.

Righeimer tells us he wants to retract all remaining layoff notices - he said there are 70 still outstanding - and work with the employee associations toward the goal of saving money by outsourcing WITHOUT resorting to layoffs.  He specifically mentioned the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association because negotiations have apparently stalled.  It's going to be VERY interesting to see just how willing that particular group will be to sit down with him.  There has been distrust and animosity between Righeimer and the police association for years, so we'll be interested to see what effect the truce flag has on that relationship.

Righeimer also seems determined to force a charter on Costa Mesa.  Early last November I wrote about it when he first surprised us with his idea HERE on this blog and HERE in the Daily Pilot.  A month later, following his presentation of HIS charter at a council meeting, I wrote about that event HERE.  Now he has asked CEO Tom Hatch to come back with a process by which that ball could be kick-started again.  Personally, I think he's jumping the gun - again.  With the resounding defeat of HIS charter on November 6th the message should be loud and clear - the voters of Costa Mesa don't want a charter.  He has yet to give us specifics on just why he thinks the City should "join the big boys" and become a charter city.  

Righeimer mumbles about not having the tools he needs to "fix" the city.  Well, they managed to balance the budget without a charter and trim staff without a charter.  What "tool" is he referring to?  Is it a scalpel, with which surgical slices could be used to improve things?  Or, is it a sledgehammer with which he would smash the "unions" and get rid of the unfunded pension liability by declaring municipal bankruptcy?  I need to hear more specifics from him before I buy into ANY charter scheme.  By the way, the "New Righeimer" has apparently stopped using the word "unions" in his dialogue for the time being.  Maybe that's what he means about working together...

He says we have eighteen months to put a new charter initiative together.  Actually, we have two full years before the next General Election.  The question of a charter should NOT be placed on a Primary Election ballot - it's too important to the future of the city to have only a small percentage of the voters - typical in an off-year primary - make the decision.  So, there's no reason to rush the process.  If we do it, we need to get it right. 

Assuming for a moment that a committee or commission is created to craft a proper charter for Costa Mesa, it should include representatives of all constituencies - residents, business owners, major community organizations including neighborhood homeowner associations, service organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, etc.  It should NOT be stacked with political cronies the way they've stacked the Investment Oversight Committee, for example. 

Righeimer has demonstrated during his short time in Costa Mesa that he is NOT a patient fellow.  Leading a municipal government requires, no, DEMANDS, patience.  He and Mensinger fancy themselves men of action, so patience is not in their normal lexicon.  They have to change and work within the process that's established to protect all the residents of this city.  Perhaps Sandra Genis' presence on the dais will help with that... we'll see.


So, off we go on this new honeymoon with Jim Righeimer.  It is with great anticipation and apprehension that I wait to see how he performs.  We'll see if he continues to suffer with a premature problem - trying to hurry things to a climax without the inconvenience of a little foreplay.  I suspect it won't take long to find out.

To refresh your memory, here's a short video clip from the last council meeting in which Righeimer tries to set the tone for the future.

  Â Get Microsoft Silverlight

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Anonymous 31 yr resident said...

TWO years into his term and destruction of our city, he gets on that dias and says how many times "I don't know what that process is?" Are you kidding me?!?! And know he is going to be our Mayor??? Maybe, just maybe, he should have thought about his lack of procedural knowledge A LONG TIME AGO before commencing on his political agenda and destroying our employees and this city! Geoff, good for you having a patience hat in your closet. But I don't believe for a second that this leapord has changed his spots. He is way to shady, unscrupulous, "premature", and eratic for my taste. Time to go!

11/28/2012 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Music 2 my ears said...

Mayor Riggy, I like the tone of that.

11/28/2012 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Dont let the door hit you said...

Who cares if he is being nice, the recall is still out there. I hear it hasn't gone away, just editing the petition.

11/28/2012 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Stirrer of Pot: Enjoyed your paragraph re Anticipating the Honeymoon. Among other things, it correctly implies who’s been on top for two years and – ahem – who’s been underneath.

Moving right along ... since about 60% of us apparently agree this marriage suffers because the people are not able to trust the Councilmen, I propose the following to give us a reason to trust:

If we are to have a charter, it must provide for an elected City Attorney -- an attorney who works for the people, not the Council.

Why? As an elected official, the City Attorney would be independent of the Council, and not have to worry about losing the job if he/she went against the Council.

The predictable happy result from the citizens’ standpoint would be that the City Attorney would blow the whistle on any Council actions that were
• illegal,
• violated contractual agreements,
• violated Council bylaws, or
• violated the Brown Act.

Would it be worth it? For starters, an elected City Attorney would have raised so much ruckus last year about the Council’s boneheaded layoff strategy that we wouldn’t have had the expense (over $2 million to date) from trying to abrogate contracts with workers.

11/28/2012 09:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
--Albert Einstein

Geoff --
It seems to me that now is a good time for those of us who were not averse to Costa Mesa's having a charter (just not THIS charter) to come together and start the process of drafting it. Righeimer has stated unequivocally that he will propose a charter again. It is not clear that he will do it via a different process: he's already talking about putting it on a primary ballot, the same thing he tried last time. Freemartin Millard has put forth the opinion that it would have passed had it been on last June's ballot. I see this as a statement that he condones dirty, unfair, and underhanded political action, but more than that, it is an admission that Righeimer is among his chelas, and that this was the accepted strategy all along.

So I propose that we become proactive on the charter issue, and stop letting Righeimer lead us around by simply running fast enough that we have trouble catching up. Let's get it together and start drafting something -- perhaps using some of the good suggestions that were made for amending the Righeimer charter.

Here's my first suggestion: There are seventy-one precincts here in Costa Mesa. If we group them by geographic proximity, we probably can come up with seven districts, or neighborhoods if you will, each of which can elect or appoint one city council person. This gives us a seven-member council, and I think the city is long overdue for a couple more councilpersons. It is also long overdue for a council-by-neighborhood, instead of a council-at-large.

It is diversity, rather than unanimity, among elected officials that gives us, the people, protection from runaway four-to-one ideology like we have seen in the past two years. It is a fairly obvious conclusion that electing the council by neighborhoods would produce some of that necessary diversity.

11/28/2012 09:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Hey, I second Tom Egan's motion.

What do you think we should pay the elected city attorney, Tom? And how would it be COLA'd? Same question applies to councilpersons...

11/28/2012 11:02:00 PM  
Anonymous copy said...

yes, let's get proactive and start writing a charter. we can cut and paste the preamble and other good parts and get a good jump on writing it.

11/29/2012 06:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

To Terry Koken:

Thanks for the second to the idea of having an elected, rather than selected, city attorney.

As for salary and COLA, that should be left up to the charter commission. My guess is that would be too much detail to put into a charter. Huntington Beach has an elected City Attorney, so their charter would be a source of info.

However, there’s one thing that should be kept out of the hands of the City Council: the money for the City Attorney’s office. Otherwise, the Council could jack the City Attorney around if he/she displeased the Council.

11/29/2012 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

To “copy:”

You urge “us” to get proactive and start writing a charter, and that “we can cut and paste the preamble and other good parts and get a good jump on writing it.”

As the recent election messaged, the Righeimer way is not the right way.

As many people have asserted, over and over again, the right way is the preferred State way. The first step is to elect 15 citizens to a charter commission. Then they will do the work, the research, the holding of public meetings, and the writing (if they are convinced that a charter would improve governance).

You can expect that proper deliberations might take up to two years, so nothing is to be gained by “getting a good jump” on it. As this Council has proven time after time, Haste Makes Waste.

11/29/2012 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous wordperfect said...

but cut and paste is a good way to start! use court tested amendments.

11/30/2012 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous magnacharter said...

oh, ok Tom. thanks for setting "us" straight. The preferred "State" way is not everybody's way. An overwhelming majority of the State's residents are under a charter governance for their city. It is the way to go. The charter we had can be improved, the unions hit its weak points. Just fix those, even those that don't really need fixing, and take their argument away. Can they really afford another 500K fight? will our commission be made up of wendys angels or riggys cronies?

11/30/2012 09:43:00 AM  

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