Organized labor behind campaign

COSTA MESA — Though widely reported and talked about openly, Orange County’s organized labor came out officially as the funding source for the Repair Costa Mesa ad campaign this week with a fictitious business name notice in the Daily Pilot.

“There had to be a way to organize that group and organize the money,” said Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., which ran the notice in Tuesday’s Pilot. “That’s why it’s being done, that’s why it’s through us. It doesn’t make sense for a Greg Ridge or Sandy Genis to take on full financial responsibility or control.”

The notice listed Repair Costa Mesa’s address as OCEA headquarters in Santa Ana, with the organization’s treasurer listed as Repair Costa Mesa’s treasurer. The notice was filed with the county March 24.

“It’s never been a secret that OCEA is a big part of Repair Costa Mesa and we’ve spent money on that,” Muir said. “To us it doesn’t matter. The residents of Costa Mesa clearly and repeatedly come to the City Council and told them to change their bad priorities and the City Council hasn’t listened. To me that’s what matters.”

A majority of the council is supporting a dramatic austerity plan that could outsource as many as 200 city jobs to the county or private companies. City leaders claim the cuts will offset rising pension costs and inject money into the city’s bare bones capital improvement spending.

Genis, a former Costa Mesa mayor, said Repair Costa Mesa has become a rallying cry for what many residents are feeling. Repair Costa Mesa is the campaign for the newly named Costa Mesa Coalition, a group of community members united in their opposition to the city’s direction, Genis said.

“It’s definitely a grassroots group, we have no money,” Genis said. “We’re not a [political action committee], we’re not anything at this point. We’re just a group of individuals.”

With organized labor funding the message, that is.

“I’m shocked!” quipped Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer sarcastically. “We always knew that OCEA was funding Repair Costa Mesa. No matter what they say about trying to work together, they’re simply trying to inflame resident and employees in the city with their ads.”

“This is what’s known as the opposite of a grassroots organization,” Righeimer said. “It’s an astro-turf organization that’s being completely funded by labor.”