Costa Mesa United Forum A Success
FORUM A BIG SUCCESS
Thanks to the good folks of Costa Mesa United for a very successful candidate forum Wednesday night. It was the first time in memory when city council candidates and school board candidates mixed it up on the same stage. Left to right in the above photo are Chris McEvoy, Susan Lester, Chad Petschl, Wendy Leece, Jim Righeimer, Michael Collier, Judy Franco, Katrina Foley and Loretta Zimmerman.
BOWLEY AND CREW DID WELL
Costa Mesa United Board President Gordon Bowley performed as moderator, assisted by Colin McCarthy, who posed the first barrage of questions to the candidates. The three panelists who later asked their own set of questions were Daily Pilot Editor John Canalis, Daily Pilot Sports Editor Steve Virgen and Newport Independent Publisher Tom Johnson.
I didn't count heads, but I think the peak number of attendees was around 200 interested souls, including more than fifty young people of high school age. Estancia High School cheerleaders passed out question cards and pencils. Unfortunately, time constraints prohibited any of the audience questions to be used.
The forum was generally cordial, with candidates presenting their strengths instead of dwelling on opponents weaknesses. I say "generally" because there were exceptions.. more on that later.
I'm not going to try to give you a word-for-word analysis of the event. Costa Mesa TV was present taping the event. This forum will be replayed beginning Saturday, October 9th and subsequently through the election on the following schedule:
Tuesdays: 6:00 p.m.
Wednesdays: 1:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 5:30 p.m.
Sundays: 9:00 a.m.
PROGRAM LISTING OF ALL FORUMS TO FOLLOW
I'll be posting a separate entry listing all the replay times for each of the previous three forums, including the links for the streaming video, soon.
SOME TENSE MOMENTS
The evening was not without it's tense moments, beginning with the scene outside in the parking lot where members of the CMPD hovered, awaiting the arrival of their signboard trailer, which apparently will be driven around town and was parked directly outside the Neighborhood Community Center last night. You can see the message in this photo. One of the comical parts of this situation was the vision of Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick - a Righeimer acolyte - skulking around near the group of officers, apparently trying to hear what they were saying. This photo shows him hiding behind a tree near the group. Ah, the games we play.
My general impressions of the event:
Katrina Foley was the best prepared and provided the best answers to the questions. Everyone else was a distant second and beyond. She clearly had the best grasp of all the issues, including those specific to the school board races. She drew the most enthusiastic response from the crowd.
Chris McEvoy seemed to lead the popular vote for the council race. His answers to many questions drew cheers from the crowd. And, he also made the statement that quieted the crowd, too. At the end, following Jim Righeimer's self-serving comment about being "attacked" by police unions for his position on salaries and benefits - McEvoy directed a statement specifically to Righeimer when he told him that the police and fire unions were not the only people who didn't want to see Righeimer elected to the City Council. He said that there are many more people who don't want him elected, too. You could have heard a pin drop
Sue Lester seemed intent on proving she was not simply a one-issue candidate. With each forum she seems to have a little better grasp of municipal issues.
Chad Petschl, a very nice, well-intentioned young man, is in way, way over his head. He has virtually no grasp of the issues in the city and particularly school board issues. He attempted to answer questions with broad, almost irrelevant replies that clearly demonstrated his lack of knowledge.
Wendy Leece, once again, gave good answers - just as you would expect from a person with years of public service on the council and school board under her belt. Some of her answers were at odds with those of Righeimer that you could almost see her campaign stepping ever so slightly away from the GOP power-brokers who have moved into Costa Mesa. This is good news as far as I'm concerned. I don't agree with Wendy on many issues, but her willingness to hear opposing views and vote with her brain and conscience instead of falling in lock-step with the party line is a good sign.
Jim Righeimer gave answers you'd expect from him, emphasizing budget issues. He did get off the stupidest statement of the night when he said that "you could double the police budget today and it wouldn't change crime in Costa Mesa one iota." He was looking directly at the representatives of the police and fire unions present at that time. You could hear jaws dropping throughout the room! Elsewhere during the forum he said the police union is spending $100,000 to defeat him. As each day passes, and he exhibits such strange behavior, it's becoming more and more clear just why he has NEVER been successful in any municipal election in the past. It's my hope that his record will remain intact on November 2nd.
Of the four school board candidates present, Katrina Foley gave the best performance, as mentioned above.
Judy Franco's replies seemed more scripted - she did, in fact, read many of them. She should be commended for her three decades on the school board. Certainly, she has experience and has developed contacts over her term in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. that are valuable.
Her opponent, Loretta Zimmerman, made clear, crisp replies - most of which were tilted toward the analytical side of issues and she frequently plugged her CERT training background, expressing the opinion that she hoped to get the youth involved in that program, too.
Michael Collier, who is attempting to retain his seat on the board, emphasized what he called "Academic Rigor" - getting the students to study harder.
WATCH THE TAPE
All in all, it was a good forum, where some interesting questions were vetted. Take the time to view the streaming video or the recorded taped replay on Channel 24 and 99 on ATT Uverse.
BEVER AND MOORLACH ATTACK
It's clear that tensions are rising between Righeimer and the public employee unions. This, of course, will be exacerbated by a commentary that appears today in the Daily Pilot co-authored by Councilman Eric Bever and Orange County Supervisor and Costa Mesa resident John Moorlach. You can read it HERE. They make no bones about it - they want to stall the negotiations on the employee contracts and budget resolution until AFTER the election, which means until after the new city council is seated in December. This is completely unacceptable and the fact that Bever has basically withdrawn from his civic responsibilities by boycotting the discussions to the point that he walked out of a recent meeting and failed to show up at the last council meeting only further demonstrates his unfitness for the job he was re-elected to do two years ago. If it wasn't such a costly project I suggest mounting a recall effort to remove him from office before he does even more damage to our city!