I’m cross-posting this belatedly from Daily Kos, where it is currently one of the top diaries. That I could put this together in under a half-hour is testament to the strong work done by bloggers here and elsewhere. If you go read the comments there, you’ll see comparisons to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian whose suicide as a result of official corruption there sparked the overthrow of two governments and a third, Libya, probably on the way. I don’t post this hear to politicize the event, but to demand that it receive the attention, and the exploration of its implications, that it deserves.
If I may be permitted a moment of special pleading, though, like the atrocious and venomous anti-Muslim protest in Yorba Linda last month, these are the sorts of things that we face not that infrequently in Orange County. Just as with Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Rick Scott in Florida, and pretty much every second Republican politician in Arizona, Orange County is a place where people come to Go Too Far. We need a vibrant Democratic Party here that is more than a source of funds for the rest of the state. We need to be able to oppose these things where and when they happen, to make a loud noise. So, speaking for myself only, I hope that when people read this story they will recognize that the state needs to put the same sorts of efforts into combating hatefulness here that the entire U.S. did with the South during the 50s-70s.
The original diary appears below the fold. I’m sorry that I won’t likely to be able to monitor any comments as I need to go, much later than I had expected, to work.
Public employee jumps to death after mass layoff
The chances are that you have not been following recent events in Costa Mesa, California, the plateau by the sea north of Newport Beach that contains some of the toniest shopping districts in Southern California. Get ready to start paying attention. The Republican anti-public-employee jihadists just laid off 1/3 of the city’s workers — without even the formality of a study showing that doing so made fiscal sense for the city — and one of those workers responded yesterday afternoon with a heart-breaking protest: a suicidal leap off of the 5th floor of the Costa Mesa City Hall.
Local Costa Mesa blog A Bubbling Cauldron offers this report — I’ve left out far too much of this heart-rending personal reportage, so please click on that link:
YOUNG EMPLOYEE COMMITS SUICIDE
Early this afternoon a 29 year-old maintenance worker, identified this evening as Huy Pham of Fountain Valley, who had reportedly been with the City of Costa Mesa for a little over 4 years, leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall. He apparently had been called into work from home, where he had been recuperating from an injured foot, to receive a 6-month outsourcing layoff notice. He never received the notice, choosing to take his life instead.
FROM GRIEF TO ANGER
I went into City Hall to console some of my many friends who work there. As I spoke with different people their moods shifted from extreme grief and despair at this tragic situation to almost uncontrollable anger at what they felt was the reason. This attitude grew as the afternoon passed. Without exception, the employees I spoke with blamed the death of their friend on the current elected leadership of our city for the pace at which they seem to be trying to deconstruct the city.
A BAD DAY GONE WORSE
Several times earlier in the day I thought about my many friends at City Hall because today was the day of the distribution of the layoff notices. I worried for them and the impact of simply receiving these slips of paper. Even though there is a lot of analysis to be done before outsourcing would actually happen, the pace with which this process was jammed through has made every city employee anxious – understandably so. This would have gone down as one of the darkest days in the history of this city. Now it will stand alone.
I understand the anger and despair I saw at City Hall today. Employees, and many of us observing recent events, thought the new City Council majority was moving much too fast in their attempts to re-organize the city. The focus of most of the anger was at Righeimer and his pal, Mensinger. I cannot repeat some of the epithets I heard about those two men today, when emotions were highest. There was also anger reserved for Monahan, too, because he has been a willing accomplice in this new re-structuring – and because he failed to show up at City Hall today. He’s shown the employees very clearly where his priorities lay.
The author of the above speaks disparaging of attempts to “politicize the tragedy.” Out of respect to this sensibility, I will try to avoid doing so. But a message was being sent through this action. I’ll merely quote Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman: “Attention must be paid.” Read on.
For background, I refer you to a couple of posts in our excellent state blog, Calitics, written by a Koster who writes there under a different nom de net and so whom I will not identify. (The username points to this site, which will probably have good news on this; also expect good coverage from Pacific Progressive and other blogs liked from there and on Calitics.)
The story linked in the intro has today’s events; this background piece let’s you know more about the reprehensible players, primarily a former aide the Dana Rohrabacher who slavers to higher office, name of Jim Righeimer.
I don’t see the need to improve about the above: just familiarize yourself with the situation. You don’t need a clearer example than this of the devastating effects of amoral Republican policies on the morale of public employees. (Yes, there would no doubt be more than this going on in the young man’s life that contributed to this tragic action — but the timing and the venue leave little doubt as to what triggered the action. They are not to be ignored.)
From Pacific Progressive (see original story for links):
Costa Mesa City Council, under the leadership of Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Righeimer, is scheduled to give 250 employees lay off notices tomorrow night so their jobs can be outsourced at will. Tomorrow night’s action is a long-standing goal of Righeimer, who was one of the authors of Prop 226, which would have severely restricted the ability of labor unions to collect political contributions from their members. Righeimer also helped found the Education Alliance, an anti-public education group which has controlled Capistrano Unified, Orange Unified and the Orange County Board of Education at various times. Righeimer is also on the board of the Family Action PAC.
The plan to lay off almost all the city employees as fast as possible was initially rejected by now-leaving City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow. There is speculation about why Barlow is suddenly leaving and what is happening at Costa Mesa City Hall.
Newly-elected Council Member Jim Righeimer and recently-appointed Council Member Steve Mensinger are leading the ideologically-driven jihad, with an agenda item to give notice to 250 Costa Mesa employees that their jobs will be outsourced. This represents a third of the city’s public employees in a wide range of departments. Without any study of the problem, Righeimer has also used local columnist Frank Mickadeit, to float an ill-conceived idea to privatize paramedic service in this column.
Their notice fails to take into account the opinion of Costa Mesa’s City Attorney, which required that notice be given after a decision has been made to outsource, not based on a vague idea to study outsourcing. But, in a move that some see as directly related to the direction of the new City Council, the City Attorney has resigned and the City Manager abruptly retired.
You may not recognize Jim Righeimer’s name, but he has been one of the movers of Republican politics in Orange County for decades, managing Dana Rohrabacher’s Congressional campaign in 2008, as a founding member of the Education Alliance, and as a co-author of prop 226. Righeimer and his brother-in-law Mark Bucher have led movement conservatives through groups like the Family Action PAC. Support by Riggy and his regressive allies helped elect wacky movement conservative Don Wagner (R-Irvine), Assembly leader of the Taxpayer Caucus.
We do have “traditional media” in Orange County, and they still remember how to practice journalism when the mood strikes them, so here’s the link to the report from the Orange County Register. I only have the heart to quote this much:
Helen Nenadal, Pham’s supervisor, described him as “an outstanding guy with many talents who always goes above and beyond.”
Nenadal, who is a member of the Costa Mesa Employees Association, criticized the city’s layoffs and said the city was not concerned about the health and safety of its employees.
“You can’t do this so fast and think that there’s not going to be repercussions,” she said.
I’m off to work; more to come. Attention must be paid to the death of this man, Huy Pham.