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City Life: Police misplaced their support

October 27, 2010|By Steve Smith

Editor's note: Joseph N. Bell has the day off. His column will reappear Nov. 4. The following is a special column from Steve Smith.

At the Oct. 14 Costa Mesa City Council candidate forum, the five candidates were asked what they believed is the most important issue facing the city. All of them answered "the budget."

And all were wrong.

The city's historical deficit is not the problem, it is a symptom. The problem is, and has been, a lack of qualified financial minds on the council — people with business experience who would have had more success avoiding a stifling deficit and would certainly now have more success reducing it.

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With those minds at the helm for the past few years, the city may have avoided the fiscal challenges that have led to candidate Jim Righeimer's call for a review of public service compensation — all compensation, by the way, not just the police.

They would have avoided it, in part, by raising the transient occupancy tax (TOT) years ago instead of leaving millions of dollars on the table all this time. Passage of Measure L to raise the tax this year is expected to generate $1.3 million per year in general fund revenue. Had the TOT been raised four or more years ago, Costa Mesans may not have had to suffer service cuts.

But the council did not propose a raise and must now rely on generating revenue in a recession the old-fashioned way — they have to earn it.

Out of the current council members and the 2010 council candidates, Righeimer is the only person who has the sufficient commercial business experience necessary to dig Costa Mesa out of its financial mess. And the case could even be made that Righeimer's long-ago financial mistakes make him even more qualified for he has certainly learned from them.

Righeimer, chairman of the city's Planning Commission, has been nothing short of a Costa Mesa rainmaker. Recently, his involvement in business negotiations is resulting in a makeover of Harbor Boulevard near the San Diego (405) Freeway, including several new tenants, and an exciting revitalization of Triangle Square.

It is precisely this type of councilman who police need more than ever — someone who knows how to generate the revenue that can help get the city in the black and help maintain the current compensation plans not only for the police, but for all of the public service employees.

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