Saturday, November 6, 2010

CM PRESS # 309

Link to Moorlach's website where you will find the following and more.

Endorsing candidates can be an interesting business. The tough ones are when you get approached every week by someone who says, “Why did you endorse Wendy Leece?”

Wendy Leece and I go way back. I served as her campaign treasurer in her first run for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees in 1989. I predicted that she would win her second effort in 1994 in an editorial submission to the Daily Pilot (see MOORLACH UPDATE - LA Daily Breeze - September 29, 2009). I helped her in her successful campaign for Costa Mesa City Council in 2006. I even served as a keynote speaker for one of Wendy’s campaign fund raisers this summer.

Things became awkward when Wendy voted for “3% at 50” for the city’s firefighter union. That vote resulted in my editorial submission to the OC Register, “Short-term gain, long-term pain—Trading budget concessions for pension boosts is a bad bargain” (see MOORLACH UPDATE -- OC Register -- September 15, 2009). Wendy apologized for that vote and informed everyone that she had learned the error of her ways. Regretfully, she did not. And the emotional response that results from a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” scenario is not a pleasant one. It is one of utter and complete disappointment that has caused me to grieve.

When someone mentioned the idea of pursuing a recall in six months, that idea certainly deserved further discussion (we had to wait six months before initiating the successful recall of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003). I mentioned the idea during an interview with KOCE on election night for coverage provided by Rick Reiff and Maria Hall-Brown.

When the Daily Pilot called, the question was “Why should Wendy Leece be recalled?” Here were my seven reasons:

1. The main argument for agreeing to the negotiated contract proposal was that it would cost the city $250,000 every month the vote was delayed. This point was hammered ad nauseum. The basic problem facing the city of Costa Mesa is a $9 million annual deficit. The contract proposal remedied only $3.6 million of the problem. Negotiating for another $6.5 million in concessions should have been the end game strategy. If this would have been accomplished, the city would have saved $26 million over the next four years. Spending $250,000 to save $26 million is a one-hundred-fold return on investment. Thus, my lament that the vote was penny-wise, pound-foolish.

2. Wendy Leece publicly lamented her previous pension related bargaining agreement vote and garnered the endorsement of the Orange County Republican Central Committee on that premise. She made it some six weeks before the election, not ten years ago, but six weeks prior.

3. I had the privilege of watching the city council meeting on television at home. The pledge that Wendy Leece made to the Republican Party was a pursuit of defined contribution pension plans in the future. Currently, CalPERS and 1937 Act Pension Systems only offer defined benefit pension plans. Consequently, she abrogated her defined contribution option on the dais for that reason. The point here is that you shouldn’t make a pledge if you don’t fully comprehend the law.

4. By continuing the negotiations, the employee portion of the defined benefit plan contributions could have been increased. The city was paying the employee portion and the proposed contract provided a change in direction on this liberal policy, but it could have been better.

5. The unions stated that they would not agree to such a move. But, management can impose it after reaching an impasse.

6. The reason Wendy Leece did not wish to pursue this difficult strategy became clear after the vote. It now looks like she received a significant assurance of independent expenditure money, based on newspaper accounts, from the city’s public employee unions the day before her vote. Wendy did not receive union contributions to her campaign, so she can claim she followed that Republican Party commitment. But, I did not see one article or mail piece where Leece disavowed the use of union funds to support her campaign through the use of an independent expenditure committee. She now has the appearance of having been bought. Using the Jerry Brown strategy of campaign finance, just have the unions pay for it, is not a mantle a Republican would want to wear.

7. In this time of fiscal turmoil at every level of government, the voters are looking for a Margaret Thatcher, an Iron Woman. We need someone to stand up to the self-interested unions and say “No—it’s our turn to ask for more—the taxpayers have been bullied by the public employee unions long enough.”

By approving a four-year contract, it negates the benefit of having elected someone with financial savvy like Jim Righeimer. His hands will be tied. He has to work with a city budget that looks more like a school district budget, almost entirely comprised of salaries and benefits. The hands of the remainder of the city council will also be tied. The unions will simply state “We had our reopener and you voted to agree to our terms.” This is a brilliant move and it was made possible by Wendy Leece.

What Wendy should have done is very simple. She should have voted against the proposal, waited until after the election, and allowed Righeimer to weigh in. If Righeimer was successful in garnering more concessions, even another million dollars per year, Wendy would have won. If Righeimer couldn’t find any room for improvement, then the burden of explaining that would have fallen on him. Wendy would have been covered to then vote for the contract. She would have avoided the frustrations that are now being vented by so many, even by someone like me. So now we have the disappointment on the front page of the Daily Pilot. I don’t have the time or desire to pursue a recall. However, I do understand why the idea is floating around. Let’s hope we’ve all calmed down after this campaign season’s heart breaks by mid-2011.
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