OK, Now It's My Turn...
Fasten your seat belts and get comfy... this is going to be a long one... I had planned to publish my choices for Costa Mesa City Council a little closer to the election, but the Daily Pilot forced my hand today. Originally, I thought I would wait until after the next two candidate forums on the 22nd and the 28th, but many will be mailing absentee ballots soon and - unless one of the candidates really steps in it over the next couple weeks - I already know how my votes will be cast, and why.
DAILY PILOT CHOICES
In the Sunday, October 19, 2008 edition, the Daily Pilot editors provided readers with their choices for the open City Council seats in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach. In both instances there were surprises. I'm not going to address the Newport Beach selections - I've only followed them peripherally and I don't have a dog in that hunt. Costa Mesa, however, is another question.
READ THEIR VIEWS, SEE THE VIDEOS
The Daily Pilot editors chose to endorse Katrina Foley, Jim Righeimer and Gary Monahan from among the nine candidates for three seats available. You can read the reasons for their selections HERE. You can also view the video of portions of their interviews HERE, which may help you with your own decisions on November 4th.
BEVER REJECTED - WISELY
The editors, wisely, chose not to support first-term councilman and current mayor, Eric Bever for re-election. Some will speculate that they did so because he snubbed them during their interview process. I seriously doubt that's the case, but even if it is, it would be understandable. Bever has proven to be a petulant, arrogant and capricious member of the city council, more concerned with providing a smug quip for every event than exercising sound judgment in the administration of our city. I concur with the editor's choice to ignore Bever . I will not vote for him because our city deserves much better.
KATRINA FOLEY FIRST
I agree with the Daily Pilot that Katrina Foley, through her citizenship and service to this city as both a planning commissioner and council member over the past nearly a decade, has earned the right to be returned to the dais for another four years. As the editors stated, she seems to be omnipresent, representing our city government at almost every event of significance throughout her term - the only council member to do so. Foley has clearly been the smartest, best prepared of the current council members and, although consistently outnumbered on important votes, she nonetheless has provided solid reasoning and an essential counterpoint to the sometimes-irrational views and votes taken by the current majority. As the candidate who captured the most votes four years ago, she has done an excellent job of insuring that all sides of an issue were heard, giving voice to many residents who's opinions would otherwise have been ignored by the majority. As a business owner/lawyer, wife and mother, she has demonstrated boundless energy and a very special ability to juggle the demands of job, family and city. I whole-heartedly support returning Katrina Foley to the city council.
EXTRAORDINARY POOL OF CANDIDATESFrom here on it gets a little sticky for me. This cycle the voters have had an especially unique group from which to choose their next leaders. In my more than three decades in Costa Mesa I don't recall a panel with so much relevant experience. This year we have three previous council members, including two with mayoral experience, and an uber-operative of the Orange County Republican Party who makes the word "connected" sound strangely inadequate. Combine those with a previous candidate who has become a dedicated activist, two mature, solid citizen business leaders and two bright young men with strong futures in civic affairs and you have an extraordinary group from which to choose.
RIGGY AND MONAHAN
I have been, and continue to be, critical of both Righeimer and Monahan, but for very different reasons. I'll discuss them individually, even though they are being presented to the voters, along with Bever, as a de facto slate. As a check of your mailbox each day will illustrate, the three of them are beneficiaries of mountains of money being spent by the OC GOP on their campaign.
A CARPETBAGGER AND SO MUCH MORE
I have described Jim Righeimer as a carpetbagging opportunist and well-connected political operative who chose Costa Mesa as a safe haven in which to perch awaiting a higher office to open up. I have described him as impatient, to the point that he has verbally abused applicants before the planning commission during his brief tenure. I have described his appointment to the commission by Allan Mansoor, after having resided in Costa Mesa for only a few months, as an act of political payback for the help Congressman Dana Rohrabacher gave to Mansoor and Wendy Leece two years ago in their campaigns. Did I mention that Righeimer is Rohrabacher's campaign manager? I have also said that I don't really believe he has a long-term commitment to Costa Mesa. I still believe all of the above.
PART OF OC GOP PLAN
I also don't like the fact that he appears to be a big part of a grand plan by the Orange County Republican Party - my party - to take over the government of Costa Mesa and use it for an incubator in which their cadre of political fetuses will grow.
ON THE OTHER HAND...
All that being said, there can be no dispute that Righeimer brings almost unprecedented experience for the voters to consider. As a developer, he has a very special perspective on those kinds of issues that is especially valuable in our city at this time. Beyond that, he has exceptional experience in regional organizations and all the important contacts that go along with them. He is an articulate, clever guy who knows how to "sell" his point of view. He's a personable fellow with plenty of charm and a beautiful family, which we've all seen in the numerous political mailers stuffing our mailboxes these days.
CROSSING MY FINGERS AND VOTING
So, keeping my fingers crossed until they turn white due to lack of circulation, I'm prepared to vote for Jim Righeimer and hope he will, as he promises, become a voice of mediation on the council. I'm prepared to vote for him, then stand back and hope it doesn't blow up in my face. I'm prepared to vote for him, then call him out if he strays from the promises he's been making to the voters in our city. Ouch, my fingers hurt!
WHAT ABOUT MONAHAN?
I understand why the Daily Pilot editors chose to support Gary Monahan's return to the City Council. Simple logic tells you that someone with a dozen years on the City Council previously, including a third of that as mayor, should be a good move for our city, right? During his campaign Monahan has consistently touted his vast experience on various agencies and boards that were part of his previous council terms. That should be important, too, right?
I REMEMBER GARY...
Well, I watched Gary Monahan during most of his previous tenure on the council and those memories have left a very unpleasant after-taste. I've watched him evolve from a rank neophyte with limited political skills into a cunning, and sometimes conniving, operator with a very unbecoming streak of vindictiveness. I saw him become the very reason the voters of this city passed a term limits ordinance.
MAYOR FOR LIFE?
I also watched as he stood before the city council a year ago as a private citizen and lobbied hard to get them to place the issue of a directly-elected mayor - without term limits - on the ballot this November. As he stood and spoke as if he was still a council member, pushing hard for this issue, I found myself thinking that he was attempting to become "mayor for life". Allan Mansoor supported Monahan, but Eric Bever's choice not to support this subject killed it - for the time being. There is no doubt in my mind that, if re-elected to the city council, Monahan would quickly launch yet another move to have the position of mayor become directly-elected, and without term limits. In my view, this would encourage corruption, perpetuate mediocrity and would certainly be bad for our city.
WHY RUN AGAIN?
Having watched Monahan at the end of his previous term, it was clear that he had lost interest and he stated, as he stepped aside from a leadership role to make room for the Mansoor/Bever team, that he needed to spend more time with his prodigious family and his business. All of us can understand that, but I wonder what has changed? The size of his family has not, and his business - like many today - probably needs even more of his attention in light of the downward spiral of our economy.
HOLDING A GRUDGE?
I remember Monahan during the rancorous days when his restaurant was being picketed by activists opposing Mansoor's bogus immigration screening plan. He's bitter to this day about that, as evidenced by his comments at candidate forums this year. I wonder how that animosity toward Latinos in our city will translate into even-handed governance in the future?
WEARY OF THE PROCESS?
I also remember Monahan's growing impatience with the process of governing - something that happens to folks that have become weary of a "job". I recall with crystal clarity one evening when he admonished his peers on the council, while discussing the subject of annexation of portions of the county coveted by both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, that they should "play hardball" with Newport Beach representatives, even though Newport Beach held all the cards in that game. That's the kind of attitude we can no longer afford as we deal with our neighboring cities. We need cooperation, not confrontation, as we move forward on issues like John Wayne Airport, the SR-55 solution and Banning Ranch, just to mention a few.
BACK TO THE MUNICIPAL TROUGH
It is my understanding that, if elected to the city council, Monahan will remain on the board of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, where he will be entitled to draw over $1300 per month, depending on the number of meetings he attends. Combine that with the honey pot he will have as a council member - $952 per month, plus expenses and the availability of excellent medical benefits for his family and the opportunity to pad his pension, and I just cannot help but think that he's in this for Gary, not for the city.
THANKS, GARY, BUT NO THANKS...
I will not support Gary Monahan for re-election because I think he's weary of the job. He has worn out his welcome and is just trying to elbow his way back to the municipal trough. Thanks for your prior service, Gary, now please step aside.
THE REMAINING FIVE
This leaves us with five candidates for the remaining choice on my ballot - Lisa Reedy, Chris McEvoy, Nick Moss, Chris Bunyan and Bill Sneen.
NOT REEDY'S TIME
I think Lisa Reedy - a woman with excellent business and leadership skills - has not gotten serious enough early in her campaign and it shows in her performance at forums. I hope she decides to run again in two years. I'm grateful to her for making this run and hope she will do so again soon. I cannot vote for her this time around.
MC EVOY SHOWS ENTHUSIASM AND PROMISE
Chris McEvoy is a delightful, refreshing young man to whom the future of this city belongs. He has some unique ideas about solutions to city issues and promises to stay involved in civic issues following the election. I hope he does, and that he returns as a candidate again soon, but I cannot vote for him this time.
MOSS IS STILL LEARNING
Nick Moss is another young man who is still on the steep part of the learning curve on municipal issues. I hope he finds a way to stay involved, but this is not the right time for him on the council. He won't receive my vote this time.
BUNYAN AND SNEEN
That leaves us with Chris Bunyan and Bill Sneen, both of whom I like very much as individuals and as candidates.
BUNYAN'S BACK AND FOCUSED
Chris Bunyan ran two years ago and finished last. This year, with saving the Banning Ranch as a cornerstone of his campaign, he seems to be working much harder and has been making inroads. His comments at the recent forums consistently drew the best responses, so he does strike a chord with voters. I think he can continue to make significant contributions to our city. Should he somehow manage, in the face of such stiff competition this time around, to round up enough votes to land a seat on the council I would not be unhappy, but I will not vote for him this time.
SNEEN HAS THE SKILLS, SMARTS AND ATTITUDE
As he said at a recent forum, Bill Sneen has lived in Costa Mesa twenty years longer than Jim Righeimer and is a business executive, community activist and family man. He is the husband of recent school board member, Linda Sneen, and the father of two college-age sons - both Eagle Scouts. He and his wife have been active in school issues for many years. He possesses excellent business leadership experience and the intelligence, maturity and work ethic so necessary to make solid decisions for our city. He has worked harder than any other new candidate trying to prepare for the forums this year, interviewing many senior city staffers and former municipal leaders and residents. From all I can discern, his slogan, "Costa Mesa First", accurately describes his commitment to improving our city for all residents ahead of any personal political ambitions. By any definition of the phrase, Bill Sneen is a "solid citizen" and precisely the kind of person we should hope to elect to our city council. For all of these reasons he has earned my remaining vote.
FOLEY, RIGHEIMER AND SNEEN
So, there you have it. I will mark my ballot for Katrina Foley, Jim Righeimer and Bill Sneen because I think the combination of skills, experience, and leadership they individually and collectively bring to the dais may go a long way to moderate the divisiveness and rancor that has existed over the past few years. The challenges that face Costa Mesa in the near future will require a city council that can set aside individual bias and make decisions that serve all the stakeholders - residents, business owners and visitors, alike. I think Foley, Righeimer and Sneen can be the nucleus of that team.
REMEMBER "44 VOTES" - MAKE AN INFORMED CHOICE
Don't take my word for it. Do your own homework. Watch the video clips of the three forums available to you on CMTV or the city web site and view the individual clips on the Daily Pilot web site. Read what the candidates have written, consider their backgrounds and motivations. If you use comments offered by bloggers like me, remember to consider the source. There's one guy in town who has very clear ulterior motives - something that should be important to you as you weigh his words. With apologies to my cousin Jerry for the use of his jersey as an illustration, remember that in the election four years ago only 44 votes separated Eric Bever and Bruce Garlich. Whatever you do, make an informed choice when you mark your ballot. Two weeks to go and counting...