Phone Survey – Politics As Usual

A Personal Opinion by Charles Mooney

A recent phone survey, which I recorded*, has been making the rounds in Costa Mesa.  The survey asked which two of the eight listed individuals would be the most preferred candidates for Costa Mesa City Council.  However, only one had a recent city council record to consider.  The description of this candidate’s positions and implied record could have been a breath of fresh air had it been specific and more thorough, but instead it was not and had the stale air of politics as usual.

The candidate’s description started with the usual bait, “advocate for taxpayers”.  No candidate is against taxpayers, so this hardly serves as a differentiator.

The description of the candidate’s qualifications included serving on the council for 4 years.  However, the description failed to mention that these 4 years are considered by many longtime residents as the most tumultuous, divisive and unproductive that they can remember.

The candidate was associated with nebulous claims of taking on public employee unions to streamline city government (layoffs?), cut wasteful spending, change the way public services are delivered (outsourcing?) and reform employee pensions.

The first part of this claim is vague, but if it were more specific it might have stated that the candidate hastily issued layoff notices to nearly half the city employees that resulted in an unnecessary and avoidable lawsuit.  This lawsuit has since cost the city’s taxpayers over a million dollars in legal bills.  The lawsuit continues to this day and the bills continue to mount.  This is probably not the reduction in wasteful spending that most residents had in mind.

However, this same first part of the vague claim might be referring to the adversarial relationship the candidate has had with the police department.  This strained relationship has resulted in a significant number of police officers leaving the department.  The candidate may consider this a cost cutting move, but many residents feel it is a risk to their public safety.  Hiring officers to replace those that have left has also been difficult and slow which has added to the concerns about public safety.

The next part of the claim probably refers to outsourcing (…change the way public services are delivered…).  The city studied the outsourcing opportunities.  The analysis showed that many of these did not make financial sense.  As a result, many of the layoff notices were retracted.  There may be other outsourcing possibilities, not that I am in favor of them, but they seem to be hung up in the avoidable lawsuit mentioned above.

The last vague claim was about reforming employee pensions.  If this claim is really referring to reform, the state has already started this with the Public Employee Pension Reform Act that was enacted January 1, 2013 and the candidate had nothing to do with this.

If this claim is referring to the unfunded pension liability the city has had for several years, why has the candidate waited for nearly 4 years in office to deal with this?  While he has done nothing, glaciers have been zooming by and the underfunded pension liability has continued to increase.

The survey could have gone on to mention the unjustified, flawed and defeated proposed charter of 2012, the financial debacle of the 60th city anniversary, the mysterious and illegal trail in Fairview Park, the near acceptance of a questionable traffic mitigation contract associated with the unpopular proposed Banning Ranch development, changes to the public comments policy that inhibit timely public participation in city council meetings, worrisome population density and traffic increasing development, etc.  However, there was no mention of these issues that were either promoted by this candidate or that occurred on this candidate’s watch.

So why didn’t the survey contain some fresh air and describe the candidate’s positions and implied record more thoroughly and specifically?  My guess is that they didn’t do this because if they had, a survey for this candidate would not be necessary because the results would be obvious.  No one would vote for this candidate.

Charles Mooney is a 35 year resident of Costa Mesa.  The views above do not necessarily represent the official position of the entire CM4RG membership.


* Quote from recorded survey “Mayor Jim Righeimer is a small business owner and strong advocate for taxpayers who has served our community on city council for 4 years.  Mayor Righeimer has taken on public employee unions in an effort to streamline city government, cut wasteful spending, change the way public services are delivered and reform public employee pensions.”