Mesa Verde Community, Inc., Stands Tall
Well, the first Costa Mesa City Council candidate forum is now behind us and, as anticipated, the good folks of Mesa Verde Community, Inc., did themselves proud. Cindy Brenneman and Darnell Wyrick kicked things off.
WARM AND COZY
A packed house - standing room only, as a matter of fact - of more than 200 people from throughout the city sat and stood to hear the four candidates who showed up expound on a variety of issues. The fifth candidate, Chad Petschl, is apparently out of town. Bad for him but good for the others, who had a chance to field more questions and impress the assembled throng with their answers.
CMTV STAFF STEPPED UP, AGAIN
Pulling another late night event, both Dane Bora and Brad Long of Costa Mesa TV - Channel 24 on Time Warner Cable and 99 on ATT UVerse - showed up to tape the event. It will be placed into the rotation of events being telecast until further notice at the following days and times:
The first rotation will begin this Friday night. It will also be available in streaming video beginning sometime Friday.
Mesa Verde Community, Inc., did a terrific job of putting this forum together. Thanks to the warm night, all the ceiling fans were whirling at full tilt and I suppose folks would have preferred it to be 10 degrees cooler, but everyone seemed to manage.
Moderator Darnell Wyrick did a good job of mixing the questions up and kept things moving. The proceedings began a couple minutes early and ended a couple minutes late. The crowd began thinning out around 8:45.
In my opinion, Wendy Leece and Jim Righeimer were the best prepared, but they should have been. Each drew applause on occasion, but Righeimer also drew some frowns, particularly from the members of the public safety organizations in attendance.
Riggy obviously doesn't care about receiving the endorsement of the public safety unions because he kept poking them in the eye about pensions and salaries, making it clear that he intended to do something about them if elected.
Wendy Leece handled herself well and had a different view of the pay and benefits issue.
Susan Lester, when she wasn't preaching about her favorite - and only - issue, Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, did OK for a new gal in town. She admitted it when she didn't know about an issue, which was refreshing and not at all surprising since she's only been a resident of Costa Mesa a month. She had a cadre of supporters in the room who booed Leece and Righeimer when they spoke against Medical Marijuana.
Chris McEvoy spoke firmly and with conviction on issues important to him - Banning Ranch/Bluff Road and density. He's had a couple years of paying close attention to important issues in town since the last election and will, once again, be running a bare bones campaign.
AMONG THE THRONG
There were plenty of current and former elected and appointed officials in attendance. Lame duck Mayor Allan Mansoor showed up and stayed for awhile, occasionally glancing over his shoulder for Katrina Foley or Humberto Caspa. Former Mayor Sandra Genis was there and made her presence known. Planning commissioners Steve Mensinger, Colin McCarthy and Jim Fitzpatrick were there to show support for Riggy. Is that a Brown Act violation?
Current Mesa Consolidated District Director, and former Planning Commissioner, Jim Fisler, as was in the house, as was one of his opponents for his seat in November, Art Perry. Sanitary District Director Bob Ooten showed up and worked the room.
Many of "the usual suspects", long time Westside activists were there to cheer Leece and Riggy when positive things were said about the Westside.
Almost candidate Chris Blank came to hear what his almost competition had to say.
Daily Pilot staffers Mona Shadia and Don Leach were there to record the candidate's pronouncements and snap photos. Look for them tomorrow morning or Friday.
Skulking against the wall off to the side, slugging down coffee to stay awake, was the pretend reporter from the CM Press, our old buddy, The Mouth from Mesa North. He left early - had to run home and publish half-truths about the event.
Wyrick read a list of replies each candidate had prepared in advance, listing the three most important things they will face in their term on the council. Their replies were:
Susan Lester: Economy; Public Safety;School Funding
Chris McEvoy: Density; Bluff Road/Banning Ranch; Budget
Jim Righeimer: Control Spending; Infrastructure; Safety
Wendy Leece: Public Safety; Seniors; Veterans
I thought it was interesting that none of them mentioned in their top three issues the expansion of John Wayne Airport, the 55 Freeway extension or gangs in Costa Mesa.
RIGGY ON THE HOT SEAT
Several questions were directed specifically at Righeimer from those submitted by the audience. He was roasted on the Triangle Square LED lights, which have been appealed by Wendy Leece to the first Council meeting in September, and the new In-&-Out Burger store being built at the site of the old Kaplan's Deli.
BANNING RANCH/BLUFF ROAD
Riggy was at odds with the other candidates on the issue of Banning Ranch and the Bluff Road. The others opposed both. Righeimer felt that upscale homes at that location and a route to our businesses along 19th Street could only help the Westside.
On Susan Lester's issue of Medical Marijuana dispensaries in Costa Mesa, she and Chris McEvoy were in favor of them, while Leece and Righeimer opposed them. Leece cited the danger to kids and crime in general. Righeimer said if it's to be legal then the family doctor should write a prescription that can be filled at Walgreens or Rite Aid.
We got a glimpse of part of Riggy's campaign mantra a couple times last night. During the discussion of the Budget and funding sources he said, "We don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem." So, since the city had slashed almost every program not protected by mandates and has reduced staff to 1980s levels, his target was clear - the salaries and benefits paid to what is left of our staff. I have to agree with Wendy Leece - if we lower our standards and pay less to select less than the best, especially now at a time when every city employee is expected to do just a little bit more, the service levels in our city will spiral downward to unacceptable levels. I guarantee you that this morning Riggy's comments will be reverberating around City Hall like a cannon shot.
VIEW THE TAPE AND FORM YOUR OWN OPINION
There's not enough space here to try to cover every question and answer posed and replied to over more than two hours. I strongly recommend that you find time to view the tape for yourselves and make your own judgment about how each candidate did last night.
NO WORD ABOUT OTHER FORUMS YET
No word yet about any other candidate forums this year. Heck, this might have been it! I do know that some members of the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group were in the crowd, taking notes. Last time around - their first time - they did a very credible job hosting a forum. We may see them jump into the breach again this year.
AGAIN, GOOD JOB, MVCI
Thanks, again, to the good folks of Mesa Verde and their excellent, active Homeowners Association, Mesa Verde Community, Inc., for kicking off the campaign season with yet another excellent program.