Mailbag: Police and politics in Costa Mesa

The recent murder of Riverside Police Officer Ryan Bonaminio brings into sharp focus the dangers law enforcement officers deal with each and every day on the job as they protect and serve our communities. I won't begin to try to make sense of Officer Bonaminio's death here — I'm not sure it's possible. He survived military tours in the Middle East only to return home to be lured into a trap by a career criminal and murdered with his own weapon.

When I read of such a loss, to the community of which he was a part and to his friends and family, I find anger swelling inside me as I think of the way the entire Costa Mesa Police Department was vilified by some members of this community during the recent political campaign. Those flames were fanned by then-candidate Jim Righeimer, as he used what he perceived to be excessive compensation for public employees, and the CMPD in particular, as his singular campaign plank — his springboard into a City Council seat.

While I am not a police officer, nor have I ever been one, my best friend was a member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 31 years and, through him, I know many, many officers. Former LAPD chief Daryl Gates was a friend. I've known Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca since high school and am proud to be friends with former Costa Mesa Police Chief Dave Snowden. During the recent campaign I became acquainted with many Costa Mesa police officers. Through all those associations and many more I may have a slightly more intense, personal appreciation than most for the sacrifices the men and women in law enforcement make to protect us all.

During the recent rancorous City Council campaign, the main focus was Righeimer vs. the Police, with vicious tactics used by both sides as they maneuvered for political advantage. Righeimer, using his pals at the O.C. GOP as beaters in the hunt, made it clear that his intent was to go after the compensation packages of our municipal employees and make Costa Mesa a laboratory for statewide pension reform.

The police fought back with the now-infamous campaign sign towed around town on a trailer and acquired the "Righeimer.com" website on which it posted less-than-flattering information about candidate Righeimer. He, in turn, retaliated by unleashing his pit bull/lawyer/brother-in-law with threats of lawsuits to attempt to violate the First Amendment rights of the police association and members of this community, including this writer. It was nasty stuff on both sides.

The worst part of this whole thing, in my view, was that or all his bluster and pontificating Righeimer cannot effect compensation changes he demands in Costa Mesa unless the city files for bankruptcy, which would put all municipal contracts at risk, including labor contracts.

All his huffing and puffing was pure political posturing, designed to create an issue out of whole cloth, just as Mayor Allan Mansoor did before him with illegal immigrants — and it worked. He managed to make the brave men and women of the CMPD the bad guys in the eyes of some voters and was the highest vote-getter in the election.

Righeimer knows that the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department are not the most highly compensated in the county, nor are they the lowest. They are paid a competitive wage, roughly in the middle of the pack, when compared to surrounding cities. And yet he persisted with his distortions, going so far as to post a link to old pay scales from the city web site on his campaign site. Funny, I never saw his W-2's for the past several years posted on his site.

It's going to be very interesting to see just exactly what soon-to-be Councilman Jim Righeimer does to implement his campaign threats, er, pledges. I guarantee you that many of us will be watching to see whose rights he tramples as he continues his climb up the political ladder now that he has finally won an election, and what part the Orange County Republican Party and its operatives will play in that attempted ascent.

Geoff West

Costa Mesa

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Council may appoint unknown

Re. "McEvoy unlikely to be appointed" (Nov. 19): Sorry, Chris, despite the fact thousands of Costa Mesa citizens voted you to represent them, that's not the way the process works. You campaigned well, had a respected, logical platform, and faced some difficult public forums and subsequently paid your dues. The reality is none of that matters, as the majority council will choose to appoint someone who the public knows nothing about, who did not have to spend money to campaign, or who subjected themselves to months of critique and scrutiny, as you did.

This is politics and it's rarely about the people. Welcome to Costa Mesa.

Truthbeknown, via DailyPilot.com

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Wendy Leece and the GOP

Re. "Lobdell: Leece is no traitor" (Nov. 19): A local example of the tremendous leadership skills of the GOP; so nice to have the "adults" back in charge in Washington.

Jolly Joe, via DailyPilot.com

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Getting In-N-Out of traffic will be hard

I love In-N-Out Burger and have longed for a location near the Harbor Boulevard and the San Diego (405) Freeway for years — just not there (adjacent to the southbound offramp). The old Kaplan's Deli was not the best location. Aside from traffic issues, the safety of this Costa Mesa gateway is also at risk. We can thank the City Council, In-N-Out and the landowner for this oversight.

Although I agree that the city and the burger chain did a good job designing the new structure so that drive-thru traffic won't back up onto Harbor, there are problems. Harbor rush hours will be clogged worse than they already are with the freeway entrances and exits and the odd traffic light design that intersect there, and adding countless In-N-Out-craving maniacs to the mix will only increase congestion.

Customers will need to make a left turn across Gisler to get back into the northbound Harbor and 405 left-turn lanes. These lanes are heavily used and are often backed up to Cinnamon Street. This will force customers to make unsafe driving choices, causing gridlock across Gisler and down Harbor.

So why that location? I assume that the In-N-Out desires freeway proximity, but the city denied the chain's request to have a sign high enough to be visible from the freeway.

However, just on the south side of the intersection sits a block of land slated for redevelopment. In my opinion, the council should have suggested this plot as a city-approved location because if In-N-Out were built on the south side of the light, it would transfer the traffic to an area that would not cause gridlock down Gisler. And the street gains an extra lane's worth of space on the south side of the intersection, which would allow traffic to move smoothly past the In-N-Out congestion.

Because the city won't allow adequate freeway signage, the restaurant could've opened slightly farther south without hurting their bottom line. And Cinnamon Street, which parallels Harbor and exits onto Gisler, would funnel traffic out of the area without causing gridlock.

The location was a Mesa Verde landmark of 40-plus years and was home to two popular neighborhood restaurants, Collander Kitchen and Kaplan's. Both were well-loved by the community, so why not just lease to another successful neighborhood restaurant?

In the end, the landowner got what it wanted: a tenant with the ability to rebuild while affording the hefty rent. Costa Mesa, on the other hand, got the shaft: increased traffic, unsafe entry to Mesa Verde North, and the loss of a neighborhood staple. Sure, the city is getting some tax dollars, but it would've gotten those same tax dollars if the In-N-Out were on the south side of the Harbor-Gisler signal.

Jason Piazza

Barbazza Real Estate Inc.

Santa Ana

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N.B. mooring group responds

The Daily Pilot's Nov. 17 article on Newport Harbor boat storage charges does not accurately state the Newport Mooring Assn.'s position. The issue is very simple: The primary use and function of Newport Harbor is boat storage. More than 8,000 boats are stored on the bay.

Under state law, all boat owners who store boats on the bay are required to pay their fair share to store their boat on the bay. For decades, the city has collected storage charges from the owners of 6,000 of the boats stored on the bay. The other 2,000 boat owners have been allowed to store their boats free of charge, simply because they are stored next to private docks connected to waterfront properties.

There is no law that allows the city to engage in this type of rate discrimination. Since 1980, rate discrimination has cost the Tidelands Fund $40 million, leaving the city without money necessary to dredge and clean the bay. The pending rate proposal perpetuates rate discrimination. It will also result in the loss of more than $2.5 million in storage charges in 2011 alone.

The Newport Mooring Assn.

Newport Beach

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C.M. police chief placed on leave

Re. "City manager places Costa Mesa police chief on leave" (Nov. 19): Yet another embarrassing blow for this fine city and the true professionals that serve this community. Eventually everything catches up to you.

Trianglesq, via DailyPilot.com

CMPD is in a pretty bad state. According to the officers, they will only respond to accidents if there is an injury. Getting any sort of meaningful response from the Police Department takes some effort. Commanding officers give conflicting policy information.

JohnnyLuv, via DailyPilot.com

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UC president's speech stokes flames

I am responding to the article "UC President Yudof: Speech is protected" (Nov. 6). The First Amendment is commonly known for freedom of speech, assembly and worship. It is a freedom, a privilege, yet Mark Yudof continuously bemoans this honor of American citizens in the case of a select few — the "politically involved Muslim student groups." Is the First Amendment not for all contributing members of the American society, regardless of whether their stance dissents from the viewpoints of a few important people at the top?

Just as Yudof begrudgingly repeats his sentiments that he cannot "censor" the "horrific" speech of a few students, nor can he "shut down" the activities of certain student groups, I bitterly echo his sentiments. Why is it that I cannot "censor" his speech or "shut down" his actions? — the president of the University of California system shockingly and unjustly branding the active Muslim student groups of his university system as members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Since when did the First amendment, or any other right, become a burden for a few on the shoulders of Mr. President, and not a freedom for all? I missed the notification of when you elevated your ranks to dictator and propaganda control of this dystopia of a UC system, instead of merely being president. After somehow equating anti-Israeli to anti-Semitic, this prejudice that exudes from your person is truly anti-Islamic. You, sir, are a plain sugar cookie.

Meena Malik

Fullerton

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Tree lighting at the Plaza

Listen up! ("North Pole resident appears at tree-lighting ceremony," Nov. 19) It is not Christmas yet. You can play all the Christmas carols, decorate and have all the tree-lightings you want. But it is not Christmas until after we give thanks. Ugh. I'm avoiding all stores and Starbucks that already have the music on. I'm already saving lots of money. So, there. Bah, humbug.

Whatthe?, via DailyPilot.com

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Protect Arctic wildlife preserve

The new Congress sure has some crazy ideas for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the American people have been keeping it wild for generations. The 50th anniversary of the Arctic refuge on Dec. 6 presents an historic opportunity to protect this last, vast American wilderness as our newest National Monument.

Big mammals, such as the iconic polar bear, still roam freely in America's Arctic and millions of the world's birds feed and nest on its plains. They come here each year, seeking refuge from a world of encroaching hazards to receive their most sacred needs: sustenance and safe harbor for bearing their young.

The Arctic refuge remains wild, so the cycle of life continues. As Americans, we have a moral and civic duty to ensure that this cycle is not broken — not on our watch. Please, President Obama, protect the Arctic Refuge as a National Monument.

Patricia Ann Lynch

Anaheim

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