In December, we learned that the recall of Newport Beach City Councilman Scott Peotter failed to qualify by only 106 signatures. A month later, the Orange County district attorney opened an investigation into the allegation that one of the paid professional petition circulators had forged signatures, contributing to the insufficiency of signatures.
On Tuesday, Peotter and the Newport Beach City Council (excluding council members Jeff Herdman and Diane Dixon) gave themselves subpoena powers to investigate the recall committee.
Their stated reason was to restore trust in the election processes, but are they the best ones to do so? They clearly have skin in the game, and most of them openly supported Peotter while we were collecting signatures. In contrast, the district attorney has no skin in the game and his investigation will be both competent and thorough. Those of us on the recall committee support such an unbiased investigation by the D.A., with an emphasis on the word "unbiased."
Councilman Will O'Neill inadvertently revealed the underlying agenda when he spoke about forcing the release of confidential invoices as well as the private emails of the recall committee. It is hard to imagine how that data will lead to the arrest of a rogue individual who may have forged signatures, but it isn't hard at all to imagine how information about the workings of his opponent's campaign will be helpful to Peotter.
The immense power of the subpoena that council members have voted upon themselves is that they will be able to compel answers to any questions that they wish while someone is under oath. Can we trust them to exercise that power responsibly? I would argue that we cannot.
Democracy works best when democratic processes are respected. The council's investigation is a thinly disguised threat to those who dare to challenge Peotter and should not be tolerated. Anyone who thinks that Peotter will fairly investigate his own recall is in error. The Orange County district attorney is the only person we can trust to appropriately investigate this situation.
Do not stand for mass shootings
Are you getting tired of the gun violence, as I am? Speak up, and write your newspaper and congressmen.
Water rate increase will tap out ratepayers
In case you missed it, former Costa Mesa City Council Member (and fellow Costa Mesa Pension and Finance Advisory Committee Member) Wendy Leece recently wrote about the Mesa Water District Board's unanimous decision last November to raise water rates 25% over the next five years ("Mesa Water should not give management raises, bonuses and then hike rates").
This latest action, Leece pointed out, means that our water rates are on track to increase by more than 60% over 15 years.
I don't know about you, but I have a real problem when elected officials basically ignore the wishes of their constituents, which is essentially what Mesa Water did to its ratepayers. Angry and frustrated, I did some research on the District's Water Rate Study Report, which it used to validate this most recent rate increase. My jaw hit the floor: directly below this table is "assumptions" of 5% annual increases for fiscal years 2023-27.
Evidently, Mesa Water District has already determined that 20 straight years of rate increases is something its ratepayers will just accept without rising up in revolt.
Every public agency, especially a water district susceptible to wholesale rate fluctuations outside of its control, should maintain a prudent reserve. Mesa Water District's target level for annual cash on hand is $39.7 million.
Building reserves of $93 million via skyrocketing rate increases, though, is simply unconscionable. It is critical that district ratepayers tell the Mesa Water Board of Directors that they are fed up and won't take it anymore.