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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

They just don't get it  

Some folks still don’t “get it.” The Council Meeting last night, followed by pundit comments today, illustrates a very confused view of politics. Politics is very different from Glee Club or a Church Picnic.

How it works

Let’s review how elected government works – or is supposed to. First, a majority is elected. That majority uses its power to select committees and advisers to develop into a team. The team is selected that the majority believes can help them reach their goals and meet their responsibilities.

That’s like a new boss coming in and organizing the staff – new hires and long-term employees – to get the job done. If the boss fails to meet his commitments he loses his job.  So he forms a team that works toward his goals. He’d be a fool to hire people who disagree or won’t work with him. Similarly, a mayor would fail his constituents if he filled responsible positions with people who oppose him.

Appointment to Planning 

Costa Mesa’s Mayor and his majority appointed folks to the Planning Commission who share their goals for a better Costa Mesa. That included Jim Fitzpatrick, who had resigned from the Planning Commission in the past to serve as an elected official on the Sanitation District Board.

Jim got in a beef with the majority of the Sanitation directors for insisting on calling for bids on the trash-hauling contract. He recently resigned from Sanitation under pressure from a lawsuit by the rest of the board. (The Board didn't want to spend money soliciting bids for the trash hauling contract, but did want to spend public funds to pursue their grudge against Fitzpatrick. (See blogs 1/1/13 and 12/2712)). 

He sounds like the kind of honest representative we want, right? Many of those who screamed about the dangers of “no bid contracts” posed by the proposed charter don’t like Fitzpatrick, though, so they’re angry that he was appointed.

Assignments as rewards

Another factor in how politics works is the distribution of jobs. The Mayor makes assignments for committees and task forces that further his goals and, second, that reward those who work with him. Last night he did not give member Leece the assignment she wanted. Remember that she was critical of him throughout the recent election, although neither was a candidate. She willingly risked the consequences to promote her opposition views.

However, she was upset that, after gratuitously opposing Council majority members throughout the campaign, she didn't receive their support for her preferred Council assignment afterward.

Blogger still hates Righeimer

A prominent blogger who’s been attacking Mensinger, Righeimer, and City growth for many years chimed in. He opined that the appointments show Righeimer wasn't sincere about developing a collaborative approach to growing and improving Costa Mesa.

Perhaps the blogger and the Councilwoman are confusing politics with a Sunday school picnic. The City Council is charged with effectively running a city that has millions of dollars of income, expenditure, and infrastructure. The Council is not charged with making everybody, or at least not their opposition – both competitive and gratuitous – feel good.

Past mayor gets it 

On the other hand, although newly-elected Council Member Sandra Genis articulated her views forcefully during the meeting, she demonstrated collaboration by offering to make a vote unanimous. Mayor Righeimer commented on her cooperation. We predict that, since she is demonstrating political savvy, she’s likely to influence votes, get cooperation toward her goals, and support her constituents well as a respected minority vote on the Council.


Another perennial opponent, Chris McEvoy, returned to remind the audience that he was trying to get signatures for a recall of Mayor Righeimer. His stated purpose in attempting the recall is a Council vote about mitigation of effects in Costa Mesa for the Banning Ranch development. The issue is moot, since the development, which isn't even in Costa Mesa, has not been able to progress, and the agreement he cites hasn't been signed nor applied.

If we look at this as a crude attempt to smear the Mayor, it demonstrates a significant lack of understanding of law and politics. If we look at it as a sincere attempt to punish one man for the majority vote of the Council last year, we have to wonder why Mr. McEvoy can’t find something productive to occupy himself.

Need Politics 101

This leads to the question: shouldn't we have better Political Science education in our schools?

Just a little bit of thinking might help, too. Anyone who’s been in a position of responsibility understands that a business, school, or City Council is formed to accomplish change – and hopefully improvement. A difference in opinion about how to make the change creates competition. Opposing the group that accumulates the most votes (or departments, or budget) has consequences.

We need more thinking, by informed minds, in Costa Mesa. We need fewer fingers pointing and pundits pouting. We need fewer silly comments by Costa Mesans who just want to hear (and see) themselves on TV.


Too many Costa Mesans are confused about the reality of politics.

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