Harlan: This is not the time to recall Righeimer

With election day approaching quickly, it seems Costa Mesans are not at a loss for finding new ways to muddy the political waters. Take former City Council candidate and math teacher Chris McEvoy's recent announcement of his intent to file a recall petition of Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer.

At the Oct. 16 council meeting, the last before the Nov. 6 election, McEvoy declared his objective to collect the required number of voter signatures to unseat Righeimer.

I understand McEvoy's frustration with this council and Righeimer in particular, and I appreciate his desire to see a change in our leadership as quickly as possible. But I believe an initiative to recall Righeimer now is misguided.

First, the timing is suspect. With only 16 days until the election, this announcement seems unnecessarily political. While I have no doubt that McEvoy is genuine, I don't think a recall effort adds anything now to our public discourse.

For many people, the upcoming election is a referendum on Righeimer, the architect of the proposed charter (Measure V), anyway.

As much as I may disagree with his policies and especially his approach, I believe Righeimer represents a constituency in our community. Obviously, that constituency has a right to be heard in our civic conversation, and the mayor pro tem is not shy about serving as its mouthpiece. His supporters should, for the time being, have their advocate sitting on the dais.

And while I suspect that the size of his constituency may have shrunken considerably since he took office almost 22 months ago, Righeimer earned his seat and should keep it for the remainder of his term barring some egregious actions. Certainly McEvoy believes Righeimer's vote on the Banning Ranch traffic-mitigation agreement, the stated basis for initiating a recall, rises to this level.

I don't necessarily disagree; in fact, I think there's a laundry list of Righeimer's actions that meet this standard. However, I'd prefer to see Costa Mesans focus on today's ballot issues — Measure V and council replacements — and address Righeimer's status at a later date.

Second, if a new majority is elected in November, Righeimer should learn to participate as a minority member. Since his election, he has enjoyed a supermajority, and all of his ideologically driven initiatives have been summarily approved by his like-minded councilmen. If he is sincerely committed to Costa Mesa, and wants to see us thrive as a community, then he will learn to cooperate with his colleagues and work collaboratively with city staff and the public.

I believe we are better served on the council when our elected officials offer a variety of perspectives and diverse life experiences. Public policy should be developed with a healthy dose of spirited discourse and debate, not a monolithic mindset. Even with a new majority I would welcome Righeimer's input and participation.

Third, a recall at this point seems petty and vindictive. Actually, it's the kind of tactic I would expect from Righeimer. When things haven't gone the way he wanted or expected, our mayor pro tem doesn't just accept the verdict and move on.

For example, how many times will Righeimer waste our taxpayer dollars to appeal court decisions about his ill-conceived outsourcing scheme? And why hasn't he sat down to negotiate in good faith the contract with the police association, as he did with the fire association? Maybe Righeimer should have been more careful in decrying McEvoy's recall announcement, saying that "small minds and small people do things like this."

I respect McEvoy's passion and his right, as a citizen of Costa Mesa, to initiate a recall effort. Vigilance like this is essential to remind our elected leaders that they serve at the pleasure of the electorate. But let's take one step at a time, clearly and deliberately starting Nov. 6.

JEFFREY HARLAN is an urban planner who lives on the Eastside of Costa Mesa.

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