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Debate tackles topics of the day

Feet to the Fire Forum for Newport-Mesa's city council candidates talks about unions and Newport's new city hall, among other topics.

October 01, 2010|By Mona Shadia, mona.shadia@latimes.com
  • Costa Mesa and Newport Beach city council candidates met at the Feet to the Fire Media Candidate Forum, including Chad Petschi, Jim Righeimer, Ed Reno, Rush Hill and Mark Tabbert, left to right, who listen as Leslie Daigle's answer a question during the discussion at the Costa Mesa Neigborhood Community Center on Thursday. The candidates took hard-hitting questions from the local mediab including Daily Pilot, Orange County Register, Newport Beach Independent and Voice of OC.
Costa Mesa and Newport Beach city council candidates… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

COSTA MESA — Thursday night's Feet to the Fire Forum, a candidates' debate organized by Orange County media, began with an issue right out of recent headlines: Planning Commissioner Jim Righeimer's decision to get out of his car during a DUI checkpoint and speak with officers over the wisdom of staging the screening on Harbor Boulevard during the evening rush-hour.

When Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit asked Righeimer about whether he would seek a law banning DUI checkpoints at such hours, Righeimer took the opportunity to say that the tapes released from the Sept. 16 public disagreement exonerated him. The candidate sounds calm on the recordings.

Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis the quizzed Righeimer as to why he had his personal attorney send a letter threatening legal action against police union officials and a local blogger in hopes of stopping them from publicizing falsehoods about him.

The candidate said he was just trying to stop any misinformation getting out. Costa Mesa police are expected to campaign against him, due to his desire to trim retirement packages in the cash-strapped city.

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"I have a family, a business and a reputation to keep in this community," Righeimer, a former Pilot columnist, said.

At times, council candidates from both cities interrupted one another, and the journalists tried to cut them off, sometimes to no avail. Newport City Council candidates dominated much of the conversation, and some of the Costa Mesa participants said they felt left out.

Though some of the answers were lost in the noise, Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia, who hosted the event in the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, was generally able to keep the conversation moving.

One issue that dominated the discussion during the forum was whether to accept union endorsements, particularly in an era where the generous pensions given to public employees have become hot-button issues.

Costa Mesa Councilwoman Wendy Leece said she is not accepting endorsements from the police and firefighter unions, but for her, that doesn't mean all relations with them should be severed.

"I have a good relationship with them," she said. "We value our police officers and firefighters."

Newport Beach City Council candidate Rush Hill said police and firefighters shouldn't be equated to the mismanagement on the part of the federal and state governments.

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