Did you feel the earth shake a little after 1 a.m. Wednesday? You should have, because that was the fracturing of the political fault line in Costa Mesa as a result of another sneaky sleight of hand by Councilman Jim Righeimer.
The week before, he had placed an item on the agenda for the Tuesday City Council meeting to facilitate the removal of Katrina Foley as mayor. When I saw that agenda item it was clear what was at play — Righeimer was trying to remove or seriously damage Foley’s probable candidacy for the directly elected mayor position that will be contested a year from now.
Part of his game plan, in my estimation, would be to elevate his pal Allan Mansoor, a man who proved himself to be an ineffective and divisive councilman and member of the Assembly, to a leadership position on the City Council to enhance his candidacy for the directly elected mayor.
During the process of the discussion, after Righeimer failed in his attempt to quick-pitch the process and have the issue pulled from the end of the agenda to the front, about 50 people spoke to the issue, most of whom supported Foley. No reason was given by Righeimer for this action in his vague and poorly worded staff report, and the city attorney later acknowledged that he had not prepared a written legal opinion regarding the document.
It was a pure political ploy, one of many Righeimer has tried during his dozen years in Costa Mesa politics since he crept across the border from Fountain Valley to infest our city with his ultra-partisan dogma. Unfortunately, this one worked, at least for now.
At 1:12 a.m. Wednesday, and with still no reason given, Foley was defrocked on a 3-2 vote and Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Genis was appointed mayor and Mansoor mayor pro tem. As a parting shot, Righeimer directed the city attorney and city manager to investigate Foley but gave no indication what he wanted investigated, nor why.
In fact, that was the big question of the night: Why? Why was this done? It was asked several times by several people and they received no answer.
I think what’s happening here is the fear my Republican Party has of a very strong Democrat, regardless of what position that person holds. For nearly two decades Foley has demonstrated her dedication and skill in public service, which includes tours on the Planning Commission, City Council, Newport-Mesa school board, again on the City Council and much more.
She is well-educated, smart, strong, articulate, tireless and cares deeply for the well-being of the residents of Costa Mesa, its businesses and visitors — precisely the kind of person my Republican Party fears, since it has so few candidates who share those qualities.
Literally within minutes of this move, the rabid right in Costa Mesa began its social media character assassination of Foley. I expect we will see this nonstop for the next 51 weeks, until the election in November 2018.
It’s a sad commentary on what my once-proud and powerful Republican Party has become. It’s a shell of its former self and faces the real possibility of losing control of political activities in the county because strong candidates from the Democratic side are presenting themselves for office and challenging incumbents who now seem vulnerable based on the current political climate in our state and across the country. Witness what just happened in Virginia and New Jersey.
There is a strong possibility that Foley and her council ally John Stephens, both lawyers, will mount a legal challenge to this unprecedented coup — to right this wrong. Unfortunately, this would burden our city with more costly legal battles — the hallmark of Righeimer’s political presence.
If Genis has indeed gone over to the other side and is willing to abandon her supporters and everything she has stood for in her multiple tours in public service over three decades, it's a sad day for us all and things don’t look good for our city. Of course, this could just be a case of political petulance, so we continue to await the answer to the question: Why?
GEOFF WEST lives in Costa Mesa.