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Community Commentary: Council majority wants to pull wool over our eyes

December 31, 2011|By Greg Ridge

The Costa Mesa City Council's proposed charter amendment is just another attempt to force its self-interested political agenda on the city. If there is anything we have learned since the council first attempted to lay off half the city's employees, it's that the council majority will do anything, and say anything, to advance its political agenda. Now we see the next phase includes a deeper and more problematic threat to our community than the last scheme did.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and his cronies on the council want to rewrite the city's laws so they can make an unchecked end-run to grab more power and put their political agenda ahead of the community's priorities.

Nearly a year ago, the same council majority told us that the city was going to be bankrupt if they didn't lay off more than half the workforce — even though they had never studied whether outsourcing would save money or how it could adversely impact the quality of our parks, roads and emergency services.

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In the months since, they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on no-bid contracts for consultants and spokespeople to sell their made-up story to the public. They gave an unlimited contract to one of the most expensive law firms in the nation to defend their scheme after city employees pointed out that layoffs are not even legal. And they repeatedly ignored factual information presented by residents, employees and an independent government auditor that the city is nowhere near insolvency.

Then, in December, their big lie was uncovered when the city announced that it will be finishing the year with a $3.8-million budget surplus instead of a $1.4-million projected deficit. This proved that they were simply manipulating the numbers to make a phony political point about budget troubles.

We had been telling them all along there was money in the budget and they didn't have to lay off half the city's workforce. They even had enough to go on a no-bid city contract shopping spree and still came out more than $5 million ahead of their misleading projections.

Why? Not because of anything this council did.

The difference came from increased sales tax revenue, a ballot measure approved by voters and pension reforms offered up by employees and negotiated before this council ever took office.

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