Wu: Endorsements have started to roll in

So we are more than a month from E-Day, one of the more pivotal dates in recent Costa Mesa history.

Will status quo rule the day?

Or will a new group take over the City Council and make Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer's life miserable until E-Day 2014, when he's up for re-election?

As we get closer to November, the endorsements are starting to roll in.

The Republican Party of Orange County and the editorial board at the Orange County Register have endorsed Councilmen Gary Monahan and Steve Mensinger and Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy.

Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Orange County Labor Federation endorsed former Mayor Sandy Genis, attorney John Stephens and businessman Harold Weitzberg.

At first I didn't see anything too surprising as I scanned through each candidate's website looking for endorsements. (Genis does not include any.)

But something of interest popped up when I saw Costa Mesa Sanitary District directors Jim Ferryman and Art Perry on the lists of those endorsing Stephens and Weitzberg.

Now it's not uncommon to endorse a candidate because you are friends, or because you support their positions, or just because you truly dislike their opponents.

But the reason this piqued my interest was because of the anti-charter group's contention that one of the reasons the charter is bad is due to its alleged no-bid procedures. The Sanitary District has not gone out to bid for their trash services since 1944 (more on that later).

On Stephens' website, his disdain for no-bid contracts in the charter is spotlighted in this section:

"The truth is the proposed charter would allow for no-bid contracts and eliminate protections against favoritism, fraud and corruption. "

However, he is endorsing Perry and would not confirm or deny his support for Ferryman, another incumbent running for re-election to the Sanitary Board. Both men are instrumental in keeping their board in a no-bid situation with their trash hauler contractor.

A few months ago, I wrote about the brouhaha in the Sanitary District. According to General Manager Scott Carroll, it has been since 1944 since they have gone out to bid their trash collection services, repeatedly re-signing contracts with the same company (with different names due to ownership changes). The district's current 10-year contract was signed in 2006, but it has a six-year Evergreen clause, which is essentially a six-year notice, if they ever want to go out to bid.

In 2010, Carroll gave notice to the Sanitary District board that he wanted to invoke the six-year evergreen notice to CR&R; to go out to bid for trash hauling in 2016, but the board unanimously declined. After director Jim Fitzpatrick was elected in late 2010, he also asked for the evergreen notice to be invoked, which is where his problems with the rest of the board started.

Because both Perry and Ferryman are proudly listed as endorsers on both Weitzberg's and Stephens' websites, and Stephens is on Perry's, I naturally asked them why they support candidates who are all for no-bid contracts when they are so against no-bid contracts, not contract reviews, but specifically about how the Sanitary District's trash hauling contract has not gone out to bid since 1944.

"If, in fact, there was a problem with the services then, of course, RFPs [requests for proposals] and bidding should be considered," Weitzberg wrote. "But if the contracts are working effectively, providing great service at a good price, that would not make sense. I feel that Art Perry and Jim Ferryman have done a great job overseeing this thankless area of service over the course of many years. Of course I would endorse them to continue that service."

So is Weitzberg saying that if there are no problems with the services, it's OK to have no-bid contracts? And would knowing that Newport Coast pays a bit more than $10.89 a month for trash service while the Costa Mesa Sanitary District customers pay $19.95 a month be a good way to look at price reviews and be a good reason to go out to bid?

"I am against no-bid contracts for public contracts, and that is what the charter would allow in Section 401," Stephens wrote. "If the Sanitary District decides to give notice of termination regarding that contract, then I would hope and expect they would issue an RFP and would engage in competitive public bidding."

The only problem with that is that when Carroll suggested it, he was voted down unanimously, as was Fitzpatrick, so it would never go out for competitive public bidding.

After numerous emails to Genis and school board Trustee Katrina Foley, I have yet to get a response from them. They both back Weitzberg and Stephens.

So how can Weitzberg and Stephens, being such opponents of the no-bid process for the charter, be OK with it, and endorse, proponents of it for the Sanitary District?

Were they even aware of the true extent of their no-bid desires when they proudly listed Perry and Ferryman on their websites as endorsers? Or are they supporting them just because they are nice guys, which I'm sure they are?

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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