COSTA MESA — Mayor Gary Monahan said his toughest year as an official didn't dissuade him from a life in public office. In fact, he said, it has encouraged him to seek reelection.
"OK, so I'm crazy. I admit it," Monahan joked Friday, explaining his decision to run next year for his fifth City Council term. "It's going to take more than the rest of this year to solve this crisis. From the feds, all the way down to the cities, we are in uncharted territories."
Monahan, 52, will launch his reelection bid Thursday at his Costa Mesa restaurant, Skosh Monahan's, 2000 Newport Blvd.
Orange County's organized labor leaders, who have criticized Monahan for supporting a plan to lay off city employees and outsource workers, had choice words for the mayor's campaign.
"Obviously, we and the community have been appalled by his reckless and irresponsible leadership, but the community will have to take the lead in taking their city back from these politically opportunistic and embarrassing characters," said Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn.
A recall effort against the mayor and the council majority was explored earlier this year, but didn't come to fruition as the city looked toward outsourcing more than 40% of the city's workforce. Workers' jobs remain in jeopardy, and some could be laid off before the end of the year.
Monahan found himself uncharacteristically alone in the spotlight earlier this year when the city began issuing notices to workers telling them they could be laid off in six months. On St. Patrick's Day, Monahan continued working at his Irish bar after learning a city worker had jumped to his death from City Hall around the time layoff notices were being distributed.
At a council meeting he eventually apologized to the community for not showing up at City Hall that day and pledged to prove himself a better leader in the future. Monahan has served on the council for 15 years, first in the mid-1990s and then again with his election in 2008.
Along with Monahan's seat, the seats for council members Eric Bever and Steve Mensinger are also up for election. Bever will be termed out, but Mensinger can seek election to the seat to which he was appointed to January.
City leaders and observers acknowledge the political climate is different now than in years past. The arguments these days are more heated, the words more vitriolic, they say.
Though there is a regular, audible group of critics at every council meeting, Monahan said most residents are on his side.
"I don't see it as an uphill battle," he said. "The reason I'm starting so early is because I expect the unions to be so aggressive. Judging by how negative the unions went against Mayor Pro Tem [Jim] Righeimer, you know, anything apparently is wide open. It could be personal. Obviously, it was last time."
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