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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hubris in Costa Mesa

Definition:  Excessive pride and arrogance.  That's the word that comes to mind to describe the Council majority at Monday night's public "hearing" on the proposed charter.

Now that more outsiders have come to Costa Mesa to make our city ground zero for local government reform, it is all starting to make sense.  First it was the OCGOP who insisted we should have our employees contribute more to their retirements.   Now it is "others" representing special interests, as they did in Oceanside, who don't want the City to pay prevailing wages on municipal projects. 

What a slap in the face to Costa Mesans who work in construction trades, who live in our clean, safe city and depend on those established wages to make a living.

Monday's meeting was another epiphany for me.  I honestly thought that we would sift through many of the submitted suggestions to the Charter.  Why did we ask for public input if we were not sincere in reading the hundreds of emails or listening to resident comments and discussing additions to the charter?  All those hours spent by staff to organize the emails was a waste.

What a monumental waste of time for those who have taken the time to send in their ideas. I think some people thought their ideas might be considered.

Reviewing the ideas should have been done at a series of study sessions where we could have deliberated and wordsmithed each of them since we opted not to have a citizens committee write the charter.

At the very least, on Monday night I thought I would start with improvements to the proposed preamble, which has bothered me from the beginning.  It just isn't right to copy and paste from Oceanside and Vista. We are Costa Mesa.

I made an exception to copy and paste from Huntington Beach's preamble because I like the part about ethics.  As an elected, these words do hold me accountable and remind me to behave ethically.

We had a hard time agreeing on where to put the sentences, (and thanks to Perry Valantine who helped with his suggestion). We should have spent as much on time on the hundreds of other suggestions. Oh well.

At least we were able to include "that ethics and integrity are the foundation of public trust and that just governance is built upon these values" and "It is incumbent upon those who govern and make decisions for and on behalf of the City of Costa Mesa to legally, as well as morally, abide by the provisions of this Charter, in its strictest sense, to assure the continued success and well-being of our fair City."

However, I did NOT vote for the changes since "in its strictest sense" was deleted by the mayor pro tem.  You will have to ask him why he didn't want "in the strictest sense" included.

Further motions of mine died for lack of seconds.  I could see we were going nowhere so rather take up more time to achieve nothing, as it was nearly midnight,  I agreed to end the meeting.

We've wasted a year--spinning, racking up more than half a million dollars in extra legal expenses, postponing layoffs, paying exorbitant salaries to consultants and what have we accomplished but to divide our city and create strife? Municipal finance is not rocket science. Residents can see through the exaggerations. Week after week residents have spoken to us about their ideas for cost savings.  We had a $3.5 million surplus from the previous council's decisions.  We aren't saving money now, that's for sure. We're spending!

By now, we could have met in good faith with all of our employee groups to achieve savings as we did before this council came into being. We've lost experienced and faithful employees, police and fire too, to other cities. We're losing our ability to retain and recruit the best.

All for pension reform. We're the tip of the spear you know. And now we also know that people are not as important as fixing potholes and alleys.  We're taking a great risk to make all these changes so fast when we don't need to move so quickly. 

The sky has never been falling.  The unfunded liability bogeyman is something every city struggles with.  In fact, pension expert John Bartell told us in October that we should "set up an affordable and reasonable time frame of not less than 20 years to payoff the unfunded pension liability."  He also said that we would save money by establishing a second tier for new employees (we did with general employees in Oct. 2010) and having employees pay "some or all of their pension costs."

But this contentious environment has not been conducive to achieving those savings with employees.

I am not opposed to a charter, but I am opposed to this one because of the process, or lack of process, that the city council council has devised to pretend to take public input.  It's really a sham.

I intend to work hard to oppose the charter assuming it will be approved on March 6. Wake up Costa Mesa!

6 comments:

OrangeMath said...

A charter like a constitution must be written and rewritten with fairness and comity.

Whether the proposed charter is correct in the the council members minds is not the issue. Process matters. Considerable time for reflection and debate is necessary.

To meet some minimum legal requirement in "reading" a charter; as if it was simply a traffic law is not acceptable to a free people.

I have supported Mr. Righeimer in many of his efforts. Even though I'm a union member; I fully appreciate the need for pension reform - which has been happening!

Still, the charter effort is a "Bridge too far." It must defeated. It is wrong on many levels. If in the name of freedom, we are to have a binding document shoved down our throats; paid for by manipulative advertising by non-Costa Mesans, then it is clear that Mr. Righeimer isn't seeking the public interest which include fairness and equity. Is the City Council acting like a nanny state telling us what pill we need for our own good?

This charter effort seems to merely be "practice" by those who want to hold people down. I don't enjoy being a self-appointed doctor's first patient.

The Pot Stirrer said...

OrangeMath says it well...

Tom Egan said...

Wendy's comments are a breath of fresh air in the miasma enveloping Costa Mesa through the efforts of supposed leader Monahan, actual leader Righeimer, and enabler Bever.

Her comments remind me of the decades of good government we enjoyed under leadership by people like Buffa, Erickson, and even the "old" Monahan (the pre-Righeimer Monahan, that is).

She recounts the steps a real representative of the people takes with each issue -- such a heartening contrast to the non-representative dictating by Righeimer and the cabal that's guiding him.

Doubt there's a cabal? Then check out Agenda Items 13 & 14 in the minutes of the June 13, 2011 Auburn CA council meeting and you'll see familiar words, rationales, and rushed schedule for getting councilman Hanley's charter onto the June 2012 ballot (http://www.auburn.ca.gov/services/Clerk/Charter%20Docs/CC%20M%2006-13-2011.pdf). Hanley began his moves in Auburn six months before Righeimer began his in Costa Mesa.

There’s even an appearance by the apparently well-traveled Eric Christen (who also spoke at Costa Mesa’s Feb. 13 meeting) about “misconceptions and disadvantages of ‘prevailing wage.’” btw, Auburn is a little town NE of Sacramento, a long, long way from Costa Mesa.

Hanley even pulled the feel-good “transparency” fig leaf over his moves by insisting that all he wanted to do in this first charter meeting was to direct the city manager “to make all Charter correspondence easily accessible on the city’s website.”

Kudos to Wendy Leece for being true to her city and not bending to the will of out-of-town power brokers.

WomanWearingClothes said...

Hubris is the perfect word for what we've witnessed for this past year on Costa Mesa City Council. Somehow we wound up with two mayors. Residents are as confused by this as they are by the proposed charter by Mr. Righeimer. I feel sure they go together. The other mayor seems to have stepped back (and is seldom in attendance at council meetings, though he has actually accessed public funds for sprucing up his property on Newport Blvd. If only we all could). Thank goodness Wendy Leece attends meetings, listens, and actually hears what residents say, tries to submit those concerns, and is ignored and voted down every single time.

I am sensing a gradual awakening from those who turn out to attend recent meetings and wonder what is happening. Not knowing why, or if there is any actual benefit to Costa Mesa in following the lead of a few select others, who have no knowledge of, or concern for, the consequences of our own town; or very possibly their own communities. This is a business venture. That is what has been transpiring in our own city hall. And it’s neither honest or civic minded.

I'm so grateful to Wendy Leece for her ability to sit there, take it all in, and stand up for the residents of Costa Mesa. The need for a "bogeyman" is particularly nasty when it is at the expense of our own city employees who have stepped up to the plate. They have no agenda other than to do their jobs and keep this city thriving.

Honor is the word that comes to mind for Ms. Leece. And to our various city department employees who do their jobs in the face of this attack on the way of life of the average resident of Costa Mesa. I honor Ms. Leece and thank her for her service.

CM Citizen said...

It makes me very sad to see what is happening to our beloved city. I am amazed at how much harm an ambitious and ruthless politician can do in so brief a time.

This is the first time in my many years in Costa Mesa that there has been a professional political operative in elected office, and I hope it will not last long and will never be repeated.

WomanWearingClothes said...

I think you've got it right. This new kind of treatment of and accompanying language aimed at our city employees is strongly influenced by politics of the nastiest kind. The use of the term "Union thugs" comes to mind. And it always seems to come from political operatives with an agenda. Unfortunately for Costa Mesa, our property values may suffer the consequences of this political attack/power grab and the cronyism which will stay with us long after the vote. We can predict this based on City Council meetings and newspaper editorials.

Hubris