Jim Righeimer Has Earned the Hate of the Unions

[Moxley Confidential] The conservative Costa Mesa city councilman insists his pension-slashing plans are about pragmatism, not politics

"You hear the argument that spending more on police reduces crime," says Righeimer, who calls himself pro-law enforcement. "I don't think that's true. You could double the number of cops, and it wouldn't change the crime rate. We'd just have more speeding tickets being written on Harbor Boulevard."

It's remarkable that Righeimer, a longtime member of the county's warped Republican establishment and an unrepentant backer of corrupt ex-sheriff Mike Carona, is emerging as an agent of change. A place dominated by conservatives, OC has rarely been a successful incubator of government reform. Indeed, the county's Board of Supervisors often presides over cesspools of incompetence and corruption. The modern world's first municipal bankruptcy occurred here in 1994, when county supervisors, all Ronald Reagan disciples, lost $1.6 billion in public funds almost overnight because of gross negligence.

But, like it or not, Righeimer—also a proud Reaganite—isn't likely to sleepwalk through his term in office. He's establishing that he's detail-oriented, willing to question all spending and fearless. Despite the parade of angry city employees and residents who line up at meetings to protest cuts, he's aiming to cut $15 million more from the next fiscal-year budget.

Righeimer: Costa Mesa's ax man
Chasen Marshall
Righeimer: Costa Mesa's ax man

If he also finds it satisfying that those cuts are likely to politically neuter an old enemy, Righeimer won't say so.

"Ideology doesn't really matter at the city level," he says. "It's all about delivering services."

Given past bad blood with unions, I pressed him on the point.

"I'm not trying to beat up anybody," he replies. "I know people—good, hard-working people—are upset, but I'm trying to keep the rhetoric down. The bottom line is that we don't have the money to sustain our spending in the short, middle or long term. That's my focus."

This column appeared in print as "The Hate of the Unions: Costa Mesa City Councilman Jim Righeimer finally has union bosses where he wants them."

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