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Commentary: I will not apologize for likening mayor to a dictator

April 23, 2014|By Geoff West

During the Costa Mesa City Council meeting April 15, Mayor Jim Righeimer used his bully pulpit — a sadly appropriate term in this case — to vilify me and four others by name for a comment I wrote as part of a thread on Facebook and for their apparent support of that comment ["Mayor asks blogger to apologize for Hitler reference," April 16].

None of the four actually wrote anything in support of my comment — they just clicked the "like" button.

When Righeimer named me, he mentioned my blog, decried the fact that the editors chose me to be part of the recent roster of newsmakers again and demanded an apology for comparing him to Adolf Hitler. For the record, that name was not used in the comment in question specifically because it is inflammatory. He also demanded an apology from the four people who "liked" the comment.

For some context, the thread to which I was responding dealt with Righeimer's recently created Preserve Our Neighborhoods Task Force, assembled to find ways to mitigate the effect of group homes on Costa Mesa neighborhoods. The author of the thread postulated that Costa Mesa residents would not know what the task force was doing — when or where it would meet and the results of the meetings — because it did not fall under the rules of the state open meetings law, the Ralph M. Brown Act. The meetings would be held in secret, with no agenda published and no reports or minutes available to the public.

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In response to that observation, I wrote the following, including the typo in the last sentence:

"This is how they roll. Create a "task force" - no open meeting law compliance required-then meet in secret and hatch (pun intended) plans to focus "enforcement" on specific types of groups. 75 years ago this is what another strutting dictator did in Germany. "transparency" seems to be a one-way mirror fro these guys!"

However offensive it may be to Righeimer and others to have him compared to Hitler, in my opinion the fact remains that his behavior has been dictatorial from the very beginning. In fact, he demonstrated this several times Tuesday night when he shouted down Councilwoman Wendy Leece during her comments and, at the very end, when he tried the same tactic on speaker Anna Vrska — unsuccessfully. Vrska refused to let him interrupt her and got into a shouting match with the mayor, defending her right to speak.

This is just campaign posturing on Righeimer's part. He has done this before. He chose to be a politician, and with that choice comes criticism of his behavior, plans and tactics. Our right to criticize him is protected by the 1st Amendment. He has unsuccessfully tried to stifle my criticism of him before.

He uses every tool available to quash critics during meetings, including bifurcating the public comments segment to discourage speakers who may not choose to wait until the meeting's end in the wee hours of the morning to address grievances or offer constructive thoughts to their elected representatives.

So I will not apologize to the mayor. My characterization of him was accurate, whether he likes it or not.

Costa Mesa resident GEOFF WEST publishes a local blog, a Bubbling Cauldron.

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