Monday, December 10, 2018

Change Is In The Air - Look Out!

Last Tuesday evening the Costa Mesa City Council took on a very new look.  In the second segment of the meeting - held in the Senior Center because Council Chambers at City Hall is under significant renovation for the next few months - the results of the election held on November 6th was certified by the City Clerk, Brenda Green and were approved by the outgoing City Council.  Actually, only one person was "out-going" - termed out Jim Righeimer.  (Darn, there I go again, mentioning his name!)
Then, the winners were sworn in by former mayor Judge Karen Robinson - a very special treat.
Katrina Foley was elected as the City's very first directly-elected mayor, defeating former mayor Sandra Genis by a huge margin.  This result was satisfying in many ways.  Genis was part of the council majority that deposed Foley as mayor last year without ever giving anything resembling a satisfactory explanation.  Foley conducted an energetic campaign, taking the high road and not responding to the vicious attempts to defame her name and record with lies and fabrications.  Genis, on the other hand, barely conducted a campaign and her representatives consistently took the low road.
The results of the district voting, also for the very first time in City history, was also very satisfying.  The candidates supported by the Righeimer/Mensinger/Genis/Mansoor group all failed miserably at the ballot box.

Andrea Marr soundly defeated Mensinger supporter Brett Eckles in the District 3 race.

Manuel Chavez crushed the developer-favorite Michelle Figueredo-Wilson for the District 4 race.  Activist Steve Chan finished far, far off the pace.

Arlis Reynolds walloped former divisive mayor Allan Mansoor in the District 5 race.  Rebecca Trahan was also well off the pace in this race.
In the euphoria that followed the swearing-in ceremony, following the obligatory break so name plates could be properly placed and chairs juggled, Foley quickly re-conveined the meeting and nominated John Stephens for Mayor Pro Tem.  That motion passed, 6-0. It seems Mansoor was wandering around somewhere and was late returning to the dais, so the vote was taken without him.  I couldn't help but smile...
We learned a lot from this election.  We learned that the voters, once again, affirmed that they'd had enough of the Righeimer/Mensinger style of governance.  They emphatically made clear that the solid rejection of those practices by the passage of Measures Y and AA in 2016 was not a fluke.  They don't want to see rampant multi-story developments.  They don't want to see spot zoning to facilitate that kind of development.  They don't want to see our residential neighborhoods defiled by increased density as a result of the Small Lot Ordinance.  They don't want to see the saturation of Sober Living Homes in our city.  They DO want to see a City Council that considers the needs of the residents before the profits of developers and sober living operators.
After the first "Righeimer" segment there were still more than 200 people in the packed room at the Senior Center, who cheered enthusiastically when each result was announced and each new member was seated on the dais.  For the first time in my memory covering City issues I saw throngs of Latino faces attending a meeting.  This is understandable, because there are new three members of the City Council with Latino heritage.  And, interestingly, there are four women on the council for the very first time, too.
Righeimer hijacked the discussion of a District Voting plan more than two years ago and replaced the preferred choice as determined by several public meetings - Five Members - with his Six Districts/Directly-Elected Mayor plan and had it placed on the ballot using his majority, with Genis and Mansoor.  Unfortunately, nobody wrote an opposing opinion for the 2016 ballot, so it passed.  It's likely that Righeimer thought this scheme would help him retain control of the council when he was termed out this year.  It failed... yet another scheme of his that failed.
Mayor Foley had placed on the agenda a plan for an existing Finance vacancy to be converted to a Chief Of Staff, which would report directly to her, plus three part-time aids to be shared by the six council members, reporting to the Chief of Staff.  This proposal was, to say the very least, controversial.  The debate and public comment on this plan went on for nearly two hours, including a period when clearly-frustrated former mayor Sandra Genis mouthed to someone in the crowd, "What do I do now?",  before new Mayor Pro Tem Stephens offered a motion that changed the reporting relationship of that position... it will report to the City Manager.  That's a good compromise.  Now, if only we had a City Manager...  The recruitment for the four positions is now underway, with a closing date of Friday, December 14, 2018.
I understand what Foley had in mind, but she probably should have made this proposal sometime in January.  There are no more meetings planned until the first week of January.  Perhaps she simply could have floated the idea and had a full-blown discussion and a more thorough vetting - the City Attorney apparently did not vet this proposal for legality.   Resident Eleanor Egan, a former member of the City legal department and Planning Commission, was among those who spoke to this issue  and advised against the proposal as presented.  Others spoke, as well, while Acting City Manager Tammy Letourneau looked on.   But, as I mentioned above, the issue passed on a 5-2 vote, with Genis and Mansoor opposing.  The screamers at the Costa Mesa Public Square have been rabid on this issue for the past week.  We'll see how this goes.
And, since I mentioned the City Attorney, I found myself wondering just where Tom Duarte was Tuesday night.  His seat was capably filled by former City Attorney, Kimberly Hall Barlow.  It was nice to see her back, even if it was for one meeting.  You may recall she was replaced by Duarte several years ago.  There was speculation that it was because she pushed back on the Righeimer/Mensinger mob.  Duarte was more compliant.
I have every confidence that this new City Council will work together effectively.  Foley has demonstrated her leadership during 2017, before she was deposed by Genis, etal.  The new, young council members have demonstrated through their campaigns and prior public service that they have the education, intelligence and energy to make a significant contribution to the future of the City.  It's unclear what kind of contributions Mansoor and Genis will be making for the next two years, when their at-large seats expire.  One thing is sure... the 2020 local election in which we will again elect a mayor and three district council members - Districts 1, 2 and 6 - will be a doozy, as the forces of the Dark Side will certainly attempt to regain control. The next council meeting will be Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

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Saturday, December 08, 2018


In the first segment of what was supposed to be a short City Council meeting on Tuesday, December 4th, the council  recognized departing councilman Jim Righeimer.   The temporary meeting room at the Senior Center was packed.  There were so many people in attendance that you actually couldn't hear the bingo numbers being called next door.  There was seating for about 150 people and there were at least another 100 in the room.  Fire Chief Dan Stefano had to make some adjustments so there was sufficient lane space in case of an emergency.

Let me say right up front that I don't like Jim Righeimer.  I don't like the way he's steamrolled his way though the governance of our city. I don't like the way he lies about important issues.  I don't like the way he arrogantly ignored the views of the people and chided folks from the dais.  Nothing has changed my opinion since then.  In fact, circumstances only reinforced my opinion.  I've posted more than 800 entries that included references to him over the years.  In fact, in May of 2017 - the same day I posted what was supposed to be my final entry here - I posted specifically about Righeimer, in which I referred to him as the worst thing that ever happened to our city.  You can read that entry HERE

Since arriving in town as a shill for his friend (at that time) Dana Rohrabacher he's been a lightning rod for controversy.  Here are just a few things that come to mind that happened on his watch:
  • In a clear bit of political payback for his role as Dana Rohrabacher's Campaign Manager which offered support in his re-election campaign, Allan Mansoor appointed him to the Planning Commission six months after his arrival in Costa Mesa from Fountain Valley where he had been a failed politician.
  • As a Planning Commissioner (with no authority to do so) he braced officers during a DUI checkpoint, demanding they cease the operation and a meeting the next day to "talk about it".
  • He orchestrated stifling public comments by bifurcating them, with only the lucky first 10 being able to speak at the beginning of the meeting.  The remainder would have to wait to the end - sometimes after midnight.
  • Early on he unleashed his pit bull attorney friend, Mark Bucher, to try to keep me from writing about him.  When I told Bucher that I understood SLAPP lawsuits he crawled back under his rock.  Bullying is a way of life for Righeimer and his pals.
  • He and his cronies on the dais created a developer-friendly environment to the detriment of the residents.
  • Sober Living businesses flourished in residential neighborhoods.
  • Legal fees skyrocketed as his philosophy was to litigate rather than negotiate.
  • The Fire Association had to wait five years for a new contract.
  • Fairview Park was placed in jeopardy by the creation of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, stacked with pro-sports fields cronies.  Citizen participation quashed their attempts to pave over parts of that park and the group was eventually disbanded.
  • Twice he tried to change the form of government from a General Law City to a Charter City.  He refused to listen to the residents in both failed elections.
  • He placed issues on the ballot to oppose Measure Y, the Slow Growth Initiative and Measure AA, designed to protect Fairview Park.  The voters passed Y and AA overwhelmingly.
  • His hand-picked pal, Steve Mensinger, joined in the management chaos and, after several years of ham-handed governance, was clearly rejected by the voters when he ran for re-election in 2016.
  • He attempted to layoff more than 200 employees in what turned out to be a costly illegal move.  Young Huy Pham jumped to his death from the roof of City Hall when he learned he was to receive a layoff notice.
  • He tried to run the city like a business, changing the title of the City Manager to Chief Executive Officer and hamstrung Tom Hatch in the process.
  • He sued the Costa Mesa Police Association for alleged false accusations of DUI, a case that was settled years later with no culpability of the Association found.
  • He sponsored the Small Lot Ordinance which changed the character of residential neighborhoods.
  • He sponsored the Residential Overlays on both Harbor and Newport Boulevards, which are now being unraveled.
  • His pal, Scott Baugh, reaped huge profits as the sole provider of food booths at the bogus 60th Anniversary celebration.
  • His management philosophy of fear and intimidation chased more than 50 police officers away, to other jurisdictions or into early retirement.
  • Refused to let then-Chief Tom Gazsi recruit to fill vacancies for 8 months.
  • He folded-up the ABLE Helicopter program, the model for all municipal helicopter programs throughout the country.
  • He chided, intimidated and vilified residents who dared to speak in opposition to him during public meetings.
  • He and Baugh viciously attempted to dethrone their "friend", 30-year incumbent congressman  Dana Rohrabacher, in the 2018 Primary Election.  That failed and Rohrabacher eventually was soundly defeated by newcomer Harley Rouda, a Democrat.
  • There's no doubt in my mind that he orchestrated the ouster of Katrina Foley as mayor late in 2017, most likely to reduce her profile for her announced run for directly-elected mayor this year.  Genis was elected as mayor and Mansoor was chosen as Mayor Pro Team.  Foley's ouster fractured many personal and political relationships throughout the city.  That gets laid right at Righeimer's feet.  I'm sure he thought it would work in his favor.... another failure!
  • He hijacked the district voting issue a couple years ago and ramrodded the current Directly-Elected Mayor/Six Districts scheme, presuming that unpopular iteration would allow him and his mob to maintain control.  Again, another epic failure.  Instead, the results of the election produced an overwhelming sweep for candidates that supported Foley, who won the mayor's slot over Genis by a huge margin.  Districts 3, 4 and 5 all were won by really bright political newcomers and, astoundingly, all of Latino heritage.  The Righeimer mob - including two former mayors - were soundly thumped in each race.
  • Still lingering is question about the role he may have played in the recent curious departure of City Manager, Tom Hatch.  Contractually,  if Hatch was fired he was entitled to a severance allowance of 9 months pay, plus one month notice - 10 months pay total.  That's more than $200,000!  But, he was not fired.  Hatch departed quietly, like a thief in the night, the Friday BEFORE the council had a chance to consider his employment - an item on the council meeting agenda for the following Tuesday.  So, it certainly looks like he quit, and was not entitled to severance.  The question remains... was his "quitting" orchestrated by Righeimer and his majority on the council - Genis and Mansoor - and relayed to him the week before the meeting?  If so, it would certainly seem to look like a Brown Act violation took place.  I hold no animus toward Hatch, but I'm very disappointed in him for skulking out like that.
  • Through their arrogant disregard of what "the people" actually want, Righeimer and his OC GOP cronies have basically destroyed the party.  Orange County, formerly a bastion of conservative thinking, now has NO representation in the Congress and none in the State Assembly.  The State of California is now a "one party" state, which means fiscal hard times are ahead as tax-and-spend Democrats will have no check on their behavior.
There was an interesting mix of speakers addressing Righeimer's departure.  Several of the usual suspects - minions like Tom Pollitt, Chuck Perry and Jim Kerins - spoke in glowing terms.  Others, like Teresa Drain and Terry Koken were less kind.  Righeimer's daughter spoke of her father - a nice touch.  His wife, Ilene, also spoke in loving terms of him.
The "recognition" part of the meeting was a little herky-jerky.  At first then-Mayor Sandra Genis was going to give him a plaque on the dais, but then chose to step down closer to the audience.  This is my best photo of this segment of the meeting.
So, it is with absolutely no sadness that I bid Jim Righeimer "adios".  For a dozen years he systematically tried to ruin my town by making it a haven for his developer-buddies. He leaves behind a record of failure.  Every major initiative he tried failed.   He created chaos and negativity in my city and left the stench of his partisan policies lingering in the air.  I hope I never have to mention his name here again, unless it's to announce that he's put his $3 million country club mansion (that's what he said it was worth) on the market and is moving to Colorado to continue his prairie dog hugging.

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