THE FIRST FORUM IS HISTORY
Thursday night nearly 200 interested observers took the opportunity to see the nine Costa Mesa City Council hopefuls strut their stuff. No, they were not walking the runway at a strip club - they were lined up on the stage at the Neighborhood Community Center fielding questions from rookie moderator, former councilman Jay Humphrey.
A "NO SNIPING" ZONE
The proceedings were cordial, with all the candidates acting almost like statesmen (and women). No cheap shots. No backhanded remarks. It was almost boring - almost.
I came away with some initial impressions of our candidates this year. First, the heavy-hitters - Foley, Bever, Monahan and Righeimer - provided the most thorough answers to the questions they handled. This was not unexpected. They all bring years of experience in municipal activities to the table. Because of the format chosen, not all candidates had the opportunity to answer all the questions.
NEWBIES HAVE A TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
Second, the newcomers, Nick Moss, Lisa Reedy, Bill Sneen, Chris McEvoy have a tough road ahead, as does 2006 candidate Chris Bunyan. Sneen has obviously done his homework on many important issues. Reedy demonstrated maturity when she decided to pass on a question she didn't know enough about. Bunyan appears to be willing to ride the Banning Ranch issue in this campaign, because he persistently found a way to fold the subject into questions where it was barely marginally relevant. Nick Moss showed up full of passion but unprepared to answer most of the questions. It's clear that he really doesn't have a grasp of how the city works.
MC EVOY IS REFRESHING
The most pleasant surprise for me was the performance of high school teacher Chris McEvoy. Although he apologized at the beginning for a physical condition that affects his speech, I found it not to be a problem at all. He's going to run a bare-bones campaign, but was quite refreshing as he attempted respond to many of the questions. Following the forum he told me he's in this for the long haul and, if he doesn't get elected this time around he'll be back in 2010. I hope so.
WEB SITE LINKS
Most of the candidates provided us with literature and some have prepared web sites which can be visited to review their qualifications and positions on important issues. I've decided, based on a suggestion by a loyal reader, to provide links to all candidate's web sites over on the right side of the page. A few of the sites are not yet operational, but I'll provide the links once they actually work. I'll provide the links through the election.
So, after the first week of the campaign season - and before some of the candidates are actually in campaign mode - here's my take on how they stack up:
Katrina Foley provided the best answers to most of the questions tossed her way. Clearly, she was the best prepared and was able to articulate her views the best.
Jim Righeimer, while only a resident of Costa Mesa for 25 months, showed strength on development-related issues. Of course, he should - that's his profession. When, in his wrap-up, he told the crowd that he planned to "live and die" in Costa Mesa I thought it was a little over the top. Personally, regardless what happens in November, I fully expect him to seek higher office when his buddies at the OC GOP decide it's his turn again.
Gary Monahan, as he certainly should, showed good knowledge of most, but not all, issues. I kept finding myself wondering why, after 12 years on the city council previously, is he back here again? Cynic that I am, I'm thinking that some issue that has percolated to the forefront - like the future of the 55 Freeway - may have prompted him to jump back into the fray to protect his business, which is located where the freeway currently ends. At one point he seemed determined to keep the open sore of illegal immigration festering in this campaign.
Eric Bever, despite his term on the council and on the Planning Commission before that, continues to demonstrate weakness, which he tries to cover up with ill-timed humor. And - in typical Bever fashion - in a response to a question about the possibility of a new library, he misrepresented the facts of the ownership of the land near City Hall that has been earmarked for the new library. Supporters of the library were fuming at that bit of misinformation following the forum. He won't get one of my votes this year.
Bill Sneen was the strongest of the second tier candidates. He's been making the rounds of city officials and staffers and former civic leaders since he filed his papers to run, trying to get up to speed on important issues. He's still got a lot of work to do, but his maturity and business leadership skills would certainly be welcome on the dais.
Lisa Reedy, with more than two decades of community activism behind her and solid business credentials, is just getting started in this race. She's willing to admit when she doesn't have an answer, but she's going to have to do some serious studying as the campaign moves forward if she hopes to be a factor in this race.
Chris Bunyan, if he expects to be taken seriously in this campaign, is going to have to broaden his platform. He will not be able to ride the Banning Ranch to victory - not with the slate of candidates he's facing this time around.
Chris McEvoy is a very refreshing change - a bright, young guy who has called Costa Mesa his home and who knows it's his town for the future. He likely won't spend much money on his campaign, so probably doesn't stand much of a chance when competing with the first four listed here. That being said, his presence in this campaign should help it from getting stale. I'm looking forward to watching him evolve...
Nick Moss, while young and passionate, really has no clue about how our municipality works and doesn't appear to have done much homework to find the answers. His responses were generally naive and, quite honestly, clueless. In my view, he should drop out of the race now.
GRACIAS, MESA VERDE COMMUNITY, INC.
Thanks to our good neighbors in Mesa Verde as represented by their homeowners association, Mesa Verde Community, Inc., for sponsoring and producing yet another fine forum. Thanks, also, to Jay Humphrey, for keeping the candidates focused and the agenda on schedule.
FUTURE VIEWING AVAILABLE SOON
For those who couldn't attend, Costa Mesa TV was in the house, taping the proceedings for future viewing beginning early next week. The forum will also be available for viewing via streaming video on the city web site.
HEADING FOR THE FIRST TURN
So, they're off and running. Now let's see who has the tenacity to make it around the first turn in this race. It will be very interesting to watch this race take shape as nine people compete for three seats. I fully expect Righeimer, Monahan and Bever to get the backing of well-heeled Orange County GOP officials and for them to put on a full-court press attacking Katrina Foley. I expect them to spend $100,000 each in that effort.... we'll see.
Labels: Candidate Forum