Commission Pushes Back On Task Force
As reported earlier, last night the Costa Mesa Planning Commission, or the remaining four members of that commission since Jim Righeimer was elected to the City Council last month, addressed the request from the staff to recommend to the City Council that a task force be assembled to study and recommend solutions to the growing homeless problem throughout the city and specifically in Lions Park.
HATCH TAKES IT ON THE CHIN
Assistant City Manager Tom Hatch, the point-man on this project, made a brief staff report, then stood back to be pilloried by commission member Steve Mensinger. Instead of simply acknowledging the size and complexity of the problem, then voting to do as suggested, commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick, as Sancho Panza to Mensinger's Don Quixote, became very agitated, jumping around in his chair and pushing for the commission to "take action". Mensinger was equally irritated and batted Hatch around like a punching bag, challenging his description of Lions Park as a "safe park" and inviting him to join him there immediately after the meeting. One got the impression that Mensinger and Fitzpatrick were ready to leap out of their respective chairs, dash over to Lions Park and begin dragging the homeless offenders off to some undefined location.
FRUSTRATION PROVOKES CALLS FOR "ACTION"
I doubt anyone will suggest that we don't have a major problem at Lions Park. The staff report chronicles the offenses. I wrote about it last weekend, HERE, which includes a link to the staff report. When you read through that report you will come away with your head spinning. I certainly understand why Mensinger and Fitzpatrick - and others - might be more than a little frustrated with the situation. It was clear from their comments that they didn't think "studying" the problem for six months was giving it proper attention and action. Both men think of themselves as "men of action". I have no problem with that, either. However, since one of those men may end up on the City Council next month, it's important to note that neither of them is particularly burdened with patience. Mensinger, in particular, demonstrates in his personal and professional life that he is, indeed, a man of action. He's used to being in command, ordering underlings to get things done and letting them feel his wrath when they are not. We could see that person in his interaction with Hatch last night.
VOTED TO RECOMMEND THE TASK FORCE - AND "ACTION"
Eventually the Planning Commission begrudgingly voted unanimously to recommend to the City Council the creation of a task force, but also recommended "action" to address the problem sooner. So, the council will likely address this issue at it's first meeting in January and the task force will be created sometime that month. It's unclear just what "action" will be taken, if any, in the meantime. The Planning Commission has no authority to unleash enforcement staff to flush out homeless offenders and dispense with them - which seemed to be the short-term solution Mensinger and Fitzpatrick were looking for.
COUNCIL SLOT REQUIRES PATIENCE...
In my opinion, a position on our City Council requires not only dedication, tenacity, passion and intelligence, but patience, as well. Coaching a young linebacker to rush the quarterback with abandon, without regard to injury that might be done to both players, may work on the football field, but approaching a serious, and multi-tentacled, municipal problem the same way will only result in more lawsuits for our city. Mensinger makes me nervous because his approach to problem-solving is dictatorial - he says "jump" and expects you to be levitating instantly. This characteristic is unacceptable as a municipal leader. With Mensinger this characteristic sometimes manifests itself in bullying behavior with staff and applicants before him. And Fitzpatrick seems to have fallen under his spell, rapidly becoming Mensinger's loyal sidekick - his Sancho Panza. He, too, has developed a heavy hand when dealing with staffers.
A month from now the configuration of the City Council, Planning and Parks & Recreation Commissions will be resolved. It's very likely that Mensinger and Fitzpatrick will hold influential positions in the new regime. I hope they will find a way to temper their burning desire to "do something" with patience and civility to staff and residents alike. That will be a welcome change.