Thursday, May 09, 2019

A New City Manager And The Pride Flag Will Fly

I’M BAAAACK!
I’m back again - two days in a row after months of absence - to wrap up the issue of my previous blog post.  That one, about flying the Pride Flag over Costa Mesa City Hall for 5 weeks beginning this year, generated lots of heat.  In fact, I attended the City Council meeting Tuesday night specifically for two reasons.  1 - To meet our new City Manager, Lori Ann Farrell Harrison and, 2 - to watch the discussion on the Pride Flag issue.
WELCOMING LORI ANN FARRELL HARRISON
First things first…. I was the first person to greet our new City Manager before she entered the meeting room at the Senior Center.  She is VERY impressive.  She has an outstanding background - strong academically and excellent work experience.  We were told she is known for her “kindness”.   
HEAPING PRAISE ON LETOURNEAU
When it came time for the discussion of her new contract things got more than a little embarrassing for Acting City Manager, Assistant City Manager Tammy Letourneau.  Several speakers, including council members, heaped much-deserved praise on her for the great job she has done for the city.  
MANSOOR THE BUFFOON
Sadly, our resident buffoon, Allan Mansoor, could not simply take the high road and welcome Mrs. Farrell Harrison and vote with the majority.  No, horses butt that he is, he had to tell Mrs. Farrell Harrison that he thought she was a good candidate, but the City should have chosen Letourneau, who didn’t even apply for the job!  Even worse, he looked straight at Mrs. Farrell Harrison and wondered out loud why we paid her $1,000 per month more than her predecessor, Tom Hatch!  What a low class jerk!  Anyhow, the council affirmed her contract on a 6-1 vote.

PRIDE FLAG DISCUSSION
Then we finally got around to the final item on the agenda, the discussion of whether we should fly a Pride Flag for five weeks every year beginning May 22nd (to honor murdered gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk) and for the entire month of June - Pride Month.
MANY LINED UP
After a short staff report and a brief discussion by Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds, who put this idea forward, public comments were invited.  This was VERY interesting.  Twenty-one (21) people lined up against the wall to come to the podium to address this issue.  All were passionate on the subject.  
LEAD-OFF NEGATIVE COMMENT
The first person, who identified herself as a MAGA supporter, was dead-set against flying the flag.  She was in the minority.
SUSAN MEYER
Among the others who spoke was my friend, Susan Meyer (who posted a comment on my Facebook page in response to my previous post and who greeted me with a big hug in the parking lot before the meeting)  She used her three minutes to describe her life as a gay woman, and what this step would mean to her in terms of acceptance of who she is.  It was very moving.
COSTA MESA LATINA
 A young Latina from Costa Mesa told us of her life as a gay woman in a culture that doesn’t embrace her.  She, too, was very passionate on this issue.
INTOLERANCE IN THE SOUTH
A 40 year-old black man spoke of his life as a gay youth in Alabama, and how moving to California changed things for him.
RELIGIOUS ACCEPTANCE
Pastor Sarah Halvorson-Cano, with her infant son in tow, expressed the position of her local church on this issue, and how they embrace everyone, including gays.
A YOUNG REPUBLICAN’S STORY
A dapper young man, Ben Chapman, stepped up and told us that he was gay and a young Republican.  He explained how the Republican Party has given him more love and support than the gay community, and that he questioned the value of flying the flag. He said, "I support one flag, the American Flag.  I don't need a Rainbow flag to tell me who I am."
A MINISTER’S TRAVAILS
Craig Chapman, who it turns out is Ben's husband, stepped up and described his travails as a minister and a gay man.

JUST A FEW EXAMPLES
These were just a few examples of passionate folks who stepped up to share their stories.  Several mentioned the high suicide rate among gay youth.

CHAVEZ LEAD THE COUNCIL DISCUSSION
When it came time for the council to consider the two issues at hand - a new Flag Policy and whether to fly the Pride Flag -  young councilman Manuel Chavez took the lead and made a motion, which was bifurcated to split the issues.  The decision on the Flag Policy passed with a 5-2 vote - Mansoor and Sandy Genis voted NO.
HIS POIGNANT STORY
Then came the discussion of the Pride Flag.  Chavez told a poignant story about growing up in Costa Mesa and his best friend was gay.  He spoke of what he observed in his friend’s life.  It was very moving.
MARR’S NAVAL STORY
Councilwoman Andrea Marr, a Naval Academy graduate who served aboard ships for five years, spoke of being a 22 year-old officer in charge of 17-19 year-old sailors, working in the bowels of ships where conversations sometimes turned to the fact that some were gay - and likely to be booted from the service if “outed”.
REYNOLDS SPOKE OF HER PARENTS
 Councilwoman Reynolds, who placed this issue on the agenda spoke of growing up in Costa Mesa and of gay friends.  She spoke of her parents - both in the audience last night - who were outstanding educators.  She spoke of her father in glowing terms, speaking about his creation of a counselor position to help gay youth at his high school in Santa Ana.
MANSOOR’S BIGOTRY SHOWED
Earlier Mansoor spoke against the issue.  At one point he said something like, “I know of no scientific evidence that a person is born gay.”  Many in the audience and on the dais noticeably cringed, including Marr, who covered her face and later looked like she was praying for him.
A GLIMPSE OF THE SANDY GENIS OF OLD
Finally came veteran Councilwoman Sandy Genis, who spoke with great compassion and eloquence, describing the obligation of the council to make residents feel welcome and safe.  For those fleeting few moments I harkened back to the Sandy Genis of old.  It was the best moment of leadership - maybe the only moment -  I’ve seen from her in a couple years.
MOIST EYES ALL AROUND
As that discussion went on it was easy to see moist eyes on the dais, particularly among the young members.  I’m OK with that. 

STILL CONCERNED, BUT MOVED…
While I still don’t know exactly where I stand on this issue, I was moved by the passion of the speakers and the compassion showed by our elected leaders - except one.
STUBBORN AND STUPID
When the vote was called each member except Allan Mansoor voted Yes.  His No vote was unnecessary and, while it may have demonstrated to him the steadfastness of his opinion, it clearly showed the fracture on the dais.  Mansoor is as stubborn as he is stupid, which he demonstrated more than once last night.
THE FLAG WILL FLY
So, the 6-1 vote means we will begin seeing the Pride Flag flying at City Hall beginning this May 22nd.  It will continue to fly through the month of June to recognize Pride Month.  I’m still not happy about that.  I don’t feel it is appropriate to fly the flag over our city honoring Harvey Milk  What about a flag for Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Heck, what about a flag for Costa Mesa Fire Captain Mike Kreza, who was killed by a dope-addled driver last year?  You get my point, right?  Mansoor implied that he was going to ask for something to be placed on a future agenda about other kinds of flags that might be flown.  The mind reels at the thought!
ADDING “QUEER” TO THE MIX
In my original post I mentioned LGBT - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  During the testimony by speakers it was frequently mentioned as LBGTQ - adding the term “queer” to the discussion.  Each time a person - and several did - use that word it actually startled me.  As I grew up - way back in the dark ages - that word was meant as a pejorative, a negative slur that didn’t necessarily mean a person was gay.  Now it apparently has become a term of honor among the gay community.   I filed that in the folder with all the other things I don’t understand these days.
SMALL TURNOUT
I kind of thought there might be a bigger turnout for this issue.  At no time Tuesday night was there more than about 60 people in the room and, by the time this item was introduced there may have been 40, not counting City staff.  More than half of those in attendance spoke to the issue, but it was a pretty small sample of our population.  Perhaps folks were just not interested.  Or, maybe, they were afraid of speaking out - one way or the other - before the council and their neighbors.   Or, maybe they were just in the next room playing Bingo!
GLAD I ATTENDED, BUT…
So, I’m glad I attended.  I have a better perspective on alternate lifestyles now.  Although I held no animus toward gay people before, I think I have a greater sense of compassion for their plight now.  But, I still don’t like the idea of flying the flag for five weeks every year.  

IF WE’RE SERIOUS WE NEED TO DO MORE
Yeah, if a young person dealing with being gay looks up at the flag and it dissuades him or her from considering suicide, then it’s worth it.  As a couple speakers said last night, if the City is serious about providing real support, then more than a flag flying over City Hall is necessary.  There should be a more concerted outreach effort, to help those struggling with this.  I don’t have a solution, but I think I have a better understanding of the problem.

AN INTERESTING SIDEBAR
I thought it was interesting that, almost before the crowd had dispersed last night, both Mayor Katrina Foley and Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens had posted a Facebook entry announcing the approval of the Pride Flag and used this image - which is a cropped version of the official City photo of the council - which eliminated Mansoor and included a rainbow border at the top.  Yeah, I smiled, but it did seem just a little over the top.

ANOTHER INTERESTING SIDEBAR
Immediately after the meeting ended and the euphoric crowd was milling around, hugging each other, I noticed Allan Mansoor made a beeline to young Ben Chapman and spent a few minutes chatting him up.  I don't know what that means... it was interesting to observe.

VIEW IT ON CM TV/YOUTUBE
Here's the link to this meeting on the City YouTube Channel HERE.

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THAT'S IT.... FOR NOW
I don't expect to post more on the blog - unless something really special moves me.  You just never know.  If you want to comment on what I wrote here you'll have to migrate back to my Facebook page to do so.  Thanks for reading...

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Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Pride Flag To Fly Over Costa Mesa?


I’M BACK.... BRIEFLY
I’ve chosen to post this here, on my dozing blog, rather than to post a long, long Facebook entry.  If, after you’ve read this, you’re moved to comment on it please return to my Facebook page to post your thoughts.  The “comments” feature has been disabled here on the blog.

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DECISIONS CAN CHANGE YOU CHANGE FOREVER
Occasionally life presents you with a moment where the next decision you make may change your life forever.   Sometimes it is something as simple as making a wrong driving decision and causing an accident.  Sometimes it could be a careless word that harms someone.  Sometimes it’s more complex than that…

TOUGH CHOICES
On the one hand you can choose to ignore a controversial situation completely and life will go on as usual, with the same folks who admire you continuing to do so.  On the other, you can state a clear position on the issue knowing full well that many of those people will change their opinion of you - maybe hate your guts forever.  This is one of those moments for me.

FRIENDS AND OTHERS
For most of the past decade and a half I’ve written here and elsewhere, mostly expressing my views on local political issues. During that time I accumulated many admirers and more than a few enemies.  That’s kind of what happens when you express opinions on sensitive or controversial issues.  I am very grateful to those who chose to read what I've written - even those who did not agree with me.

FLAG POLICY AND PRIDE
Today, Tuesday, May 7th, at the request of rookie council member Arlis Reynolds, the Costa Mesa City Council will consider, in their final agenda item during their meeting at the Senior Center tonight, a new Flag Policy and whether or not to authorize the display of the Pride Flag for five weeks each year - from May 22nd, in remembrance of murdered gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, and continue to fly the flag through the month of June to apparently acknowledge the LGBT community.  You can read the staff report HERE.

YES… AND NO
So, right up front...  I agree we should have a formal Flag Policy, but disagree that we should display the Pride Flag at all, much less for 5 weeks every year.  In researching this it's hard for me to determine just which flag would be flying over City Hall... there seems to be significant disagreement within the LGBT community as to what constitutes the "official flag".

GOODBYE TO SOME
(Some of you will have signed off now, not caring why this is my opinion.  Others will have hung around, looking for more reasons to vilify me.  So be it.)

GAYS IN MY LIFE
In my life I have known and admired many gay people.  I have friends, neighbors and relatives who are gay and I love and admire every one of them.  I know several gay couples, each of whom seem to be very happy in their choice.  In all the years that I’ve written for public consumption I doubt you will find any clue to my views on the gay lifestyle.  That was intentional - I am tolerant of the gay lifestyle and I didn’t want to alienate those of you who feel strongly in support of that lifestyle.  Today’s entry will very likely change that...

FORCED TO MAKE A CHOICE
Perhaps it’s because I’ve rounded the far turn and am in the home stretch in this race called life, but I find myself less patient - on many issues.  I still listen to opposing viewpoints, but I've been around awhile, so it's not as easy to convince me today.  I’m not less patient with gays, per se, but with being force-fed this lifestyle.  For example, for the past couple years it seems that almost every single television drama or comedy finds it necessary to include a gay sub-plot.  We notice more and more commercials have similar gay references. This is distressing to me, because they seem to serve no purpose except to pander to the LGBT community and force me to accept these plot elements and, maybe change my views.  My only choices are to watch or turn off the program.  It’s really pretty simple... I do not want these views forced upon me. 

SOME NUMBERS
The latest numbers I can find indicate that around 4.5% of the American population identifies itself as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender.  HERE and HERE are two links for your education.  It’s interesting that the numbers among millenials is over 8% and that Washington, D.C. shows well over 8%.  I won’t get into the argument about whether these lifestyles are “learned” or something one is born with.  As far as I can tell, that argument is still wide open and I don’t intend to debate it here or anywhere.  HERE is a link discussing the “movement”.  And, HERE is a link from Chapman University that addresses Health and Safety LBGT Youth in Orange County.

BIG DECISION FOR ME
The proposal being considered by the council tonight is a watershed moment for me.  I think it is a major overreach on this issue.  I’m not convinced we ever need to display the Pride Flag, nor do I think it is appropriate for us to memorialize Harvey Milk in Costa Mesa.   But, if the council is going to seriously consider this issue, and they decide they must do something, I hope they will decide to display the Pride Flag for only one day - or maybe a few -  perhaps sometime in the middle of June, so it doesn’t bleed into Memorial Day or Independence Day.

IT IS WHAT IT IS…
To those of you who are disappointed with my position on this issue, I apologize… but it is what it is.  If you choose to turn your back on me because of this issue, I guess I understand… it was part of what I considered before I began typing this epistle.  You have always had the freedom to read, or not read, what I’ve written on any subject on any of the many platforms on which my thoughts have appeared.  You've always had the freedom to agree or not agree with my opinions.  If you’ve chosen to leave, I thank you for your support in the past and wish you well.  I am not trying to convince anyone of my opinion on this one... only to state it and let the chips fall where they may.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Change Is In The Air - Look Out!

THE NEW TEAM IS SWORN IN
Last Tuesday evening the Costa Mesa City Council took on a very new look.  In the second segment of the meeting - held in the Senior Center because Council Chambers at City Hall is under significant renovation for the next few months - the results of the election held on November 6th was certified by the City Clerk, Brenda Green and were approved by the outgoing City Council.  Actually, only one person was "out-going" - termed out Jim Righeimer.  (Darn, there I go again, mentioning his name!)
KAREN ROBINSON PRESIDES
Then, the winners were sworn in by former mayor Judge Karen Robinson - a very special treat.
FOLEY CRUSHES GENIS
Katrina Foley was elected as the City's very first directly-elected mayor, defeating former mayor Sandra Genis by a huge margin.  This result was satisfying in many ways.  Genis was part of the council majority that deposed Foley as mayor last year without ever giving anything resembling a satisfactory explanation.  Foley conducted an energetic campaign, taking the high road and not responding to the vicious attempts to defame her name and record with lies and fabrications.  Genis, on the other hand, barely conducted a campaign and her representatives consistently took the low road.
DISTRICT VOTING A SURPRISE
The results of the district voting, also for the very first time in City history, was also very satisfying.  The candidates supported by the Righeimer/Mensinger/Genis/Mansoor group all failed miserably at the ballot box.

DISTRICT 3
Andrea Marr soundly defeated Mensinger supporter Brett Eckles in the District 3 race.

DISTRICT 4
Manuel Chavez crushed the developer-favorite Michelle Figueredo-Wilson for the District 4 race.  Activist Steve Chan finished far, far off the pace.

DISTRICT 5
Arlis Reynolds walloped former divisive mayor Allan Mansoor in the District 5 race.  Rebecca Trahan was also well off the pace in this race.
OOPS!
In the euphoria that followed the swearing-in ceremony, following the obligatory break so name plates could be properly placed and chairs juggled, Foley quickly re-conveined the meeting and nominated John Stephens for Mayor Pro Tem.  That motion passed, 6-0. It seems Mansoor was wandering around somewhere and was late returning to the dais, so the vote was taken without him.  I couldn't help but smile...
THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR - CHANGE IS NEEDED
We learned a lot from this election.  We learned that the voters, once again, affirmed that they'd had enough of the Righeimer/Mensinger style of governance.  They emphatically made clear that the solid rejection of those practices by the passage of Measures Y and AA in 2016 was not a fluke.  They don't want to see rampant multi-story developments.  They don't want to see spot zoning to facilitate that kind of development.  They don't want to see our residential neighborhoods defiled by increased density as a result of the Small Lot Ordinance.  They don't want to see the saturation of Sober Living Homes in our city.  They DO want to see a City Council that considers the needs of the residents before the profits of developers and sober living operators.
A LATINO PRESENCE!
After the first "Righeimer" segment there were still more than 200 people in the packed room at the Senior Center, who cheered enthusiastically when each result was announced and each new member was seated on the dais.  For the first time in my memory covering City issues I saw throngs of Latino faces attending a meeting.  This is understandable, because there are new three members of the City Council with Latino heritage.  And, interestingly, there are four women on the council for the very first time, too.
RIGHEIMER'S SCHEME BACKFIRED!
Righeimer hijacked the discussion of a District Voting plan more than two years ago and replaced the preferred choice as determined by several public meetings - Five Members - with his Six Districts/Directly-Elected Mayor plan and had it placed on the ballot using his majority, with Genis and Mansoor.  Unfortunately, nobody wrote an opposing opinion for the 2016 ballot, so it passed.  It's likely that Righeimer thought this scheme would help him retain control of the council when he was termed out this year.  It failed... yet another scheme of his that failed.
CHIEF OF STAFF AND COUNCIL AIDS
Mayor Foley had placed on the agenda a plan for an existing Finance vacancy to be converted to a Chief Of Staff, which would report directly to her, plus three part-time aids to be shared by the six council members, reporting to the Chief of Staff.  This proposal was, to say the very least, controversial.  The debate and public comment on this plan went on for nearly two hours, including a period when clearly-frustrated former mayor Sandra Genis mouthed to someone in the crowd, "What do I do now?",  before new Mayor Pro Tem Stephens offered a motion that changed the reporting relationship of that position... it will report to the City Manager.  That's a good compromise.  Now, if only we had a City Manager...  The recruitment for the four positions is now underway, with a closing date of Friday, December 14, 2018.
A GOOD IDEA, PRESENTED PREMATURELY
I understand what Foley had in mind, but she probably should have made this proposal sometime in January.  There are no more meetings planned until the first week of January.  Perhaps she simply could have floated the idea and had a full-blown discussion and a more thorough vetting - the City Attorney apparently did not vet this proposal for legality.   Resident Eleanor Egan, a former member of the City legal department and Planning Commission, was among those who spoke to this issue  and advised against the proposal as presented.  Others spoke, as well, while Acting City Manager Tammy Letourneau looked on.   But, as I mentioned above, the issue passed on a 5-2 vote, with Genis and Mansoor opposing.  The screamers at the Costa Mesa Public Square have been rabid on this issue for the past week.  We'll see how this goes.
WHERE'S DUARTE?
And, since I mentioned the City Attorney, I found myself wondering just where Tom Duarte was Tuesday night.  His seat was capably filled by former City Attorney, Kimberly Hall Barlow.  It was nice to see her back, even if it was for one meeting.  You may recall she was replaced by Duarte several years ago.  There was speculation that it was because she pushed back on the Righeimer/Mensinger mob.  Duarte was more compliant.
THIS WILL BE AN EFFECTIVE GROUP
I have every confidence that this new City Council will work together effectively.  Foley has demonstrated her leadership during 2017, before she was deposed by Genis, etal.  The new, young council members have demonstrated through their campaigns and prior public service that they have the education, intelligence and energy to make a significant contribution to the future of the City.  It's unclear what kind of contributions Mansoor and Genis will be making for the next two years, when their at-large seats expire.  One thing is sure... the 2020 local election in which we will again elect a mayor and three district council members - Districts 1, 2 and 6 - will be a doozy, as the forces of the Dark Side will certainly attempt to regain control. The next council meeting will be Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

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