Monahan & Righeimer To Run The Show
ONE FOR THE AGES
How do you begin to describe a City Council meeting which began on time, took almost 2 hours to select a Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem and ran until 11:30, at which time the council adjourned to a closed session with four difficult items on the agenda? Heck, they might still be there at this wee hour of the morning!
CLOSED SESSION MOVED TO THE END
Right off the bat the "old" council moved to "trail" the closed session - move it to the back of the line instead of doing
it before the regular, open meeting. This was a good move for a couple reasons. One, it gave Jim Righeimer a chance to be sworn in and subsequently participate in the closed session and, two, it kept an already packed agenda from being a monster. At least, that was the plan...
SHAWKEY SUPPORTERS COMMENT
After a short, but sincere, proclamation for the Friends of the Costa Mesa Library they moved directly to Public Comments in which more than 20 people spoke, including a half dozen who spoke in support of Police Chief Chris Shawkey. That was a surprise. Shawkey, along with his most senior captain, Ron Smith, were placed on administrative leave recently, with no reason being given. Despite the accolades presented on Shawkey's behalf tonight, no further comment was made by City Manager Allan Roeder.
FOLEY BREAKS DOWN SAYING GOOD-BYE
Council member comments included an emotional good-bye delivered to the audience, staff and council by out-going council member Katrina Foley. She sincerely thanked everyone with whom she ever interfaced while on the council and almost made it through without choking up - almost. Her intelligence, tenacity, hard work and perspective will be much missed on the dais.
ELECTION CERTIFIED - GOOD VOTER TURNOUT
City Clerk Julie Folcik certified the results of the November 2nd election, indicating that Measure "L", the increase of the Transient Occupancy Tax, had passed and confirmed the victory by Jim Righeimer and Wendy Leece. She confirmed that, of the 56, 825 eligible voters in Costa Mesa, 29816 (52%) cast ballots - an excellent turnout for a mid-term election.
She then swore-in Leece and Righeimer, who each then took turns acknowledging their supporters and the results of the election. Leece mentioned that she wanted to try to have an American Legion Post established in Costa Mesa.
RIGHEIMER'S THREE-PRONGED PLAN
Righeimer, in an attempt to heal still-open wounds from the election, told the packed auditorium that the campaign was over and it was time to work together. He then went on to outline a three-pronged plan to help get Costa Mesa back on track.
1- He wanted to move forward with Eric Bever's Economic Development Plan to attract new businesses to our city. He also mentioned that he wanted to find ways for staff to streamline the process. Coming from a guy who's not happy with rules, that last part makes me more than a little nervous.
2 - He wants to create the position of Economic Development Director for the city, who would be an ombudsman to facilitate development. Hmmm, wonder if he has anyone in mind for that job? Does the name "Steve Mensinger" come to mind?
3 - He wants to establish a civilian Budget Commission to help prioritize budget issues.
WHO GETS THE MAYOR'S CROWN?
Then the fun began. It was time to select a Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem. Foley nominated Leece for Mayor - Leece seconded the nomination. Righeimer nominated Gary Monahan. I'm not sure who seconded it.
Eleven speakers stood to advocate for Wendy Leece as Mayor, including two of her daughters. None stood to support Monahan. During the council member comments on this item Wendy explained how she felt she could be a consensus-builder. Righeimer said the city needed someone who had "been there" for the difficult times ahead. Foley suggested that the city return to 1-year terms for the Mayor, as it was before the recently-departed regime.
AND THE CROWD MOANS
When the vote was take on Leece's nomination it failed, with only Foley and Leece voting for her. The vote was taken on Monahan's nomination and he passed with a similar split - Foley and Leece voting NO.
AND THE CROWD GROANS
Then it was time for nominations for Mayor Pro Tem. Foley nominated Leece, who seconded the motion. Eric Bever nominated Righeimer and Monahan seconded it, so the die was cast. Speakers rose again to support Wendy's nomination - a dozen this time. One speaker rose to support Righeimer - his campaign manager. Regardless, Righeimer was elected to the groans and moans of the crowd. The vote for Leece was 2-3. For Righeimer it was 3-2.
WENDY WILL BE ALONE
The tone is set for the future now. Wendy Leece will be all alone on the dais, much as Foley was most of her tenure. When Foley is replaced in January, almost certainly with another of Righeimer's associates, that will make a super-majority, 4/5ths, which means there is NOTHING they cannot control.
I'M OK WITH MONAHAN AS MAYOR
Personally, I'm not surprised that Monahan was elected Mayor - again. I have had some problems with his management on the dais in the past, but he is an experienced guy who is much less beholden to the OC GOP than others up there. You can see the handwriting on the wall, though - Righeimer as mayor in two years. That's a scary prospect.
CHICKS SHOVED TO THE LEFT
By the time they finally got the officers elected and took a short break to adjust the chairs, it was 8:30 before they began the real business of the night. A casual observation, for whatever it's worth. The new seating chart is very interesting - kind of symbolic. Monahan, as mayor, is in the center, with Righeimer and Bever to his right. Foley is on his immediate left and Wendy Leece was relegated to the far left spot on the dais, next to the City Manager. The word "exile" comes to mind.
MESA VERDE CENTER SENIOR HOUSING APPROVED
By the time they heard the first public hearing the overflow crowd dwindled to about 65 people - less than a quarter of the number there for the early fireworks. Following the presentation and approval of the new Senior Housing plan for Mesa Verde Center by the Segerstroms there were fewer than 20 in the audience.
BANNERS, FENCES AND OLD CARS
They passed the new banner ordinance and the new fence ordinance for new developments. They passed the "inoperable vehicle" ordinance, 3-2 - boys against the girls again.
DON'T FISH OR FEED FOWL AT TEWINKLE LAKE - OR ELSE!
After unanimously passing the Redevelopment Agency issue they got into the proposal to make feeding the wild fowl and fishing at TeWinkle lake a "disorderly conduct" offense - theoretically an offense for which one could be jailed. It passed, with a 6 month moratorium on enforcement while the staff conducts outreach in the nearby community. This is a toughie because the feeding of the critters fouls the lake, which caused a tremendous maintenance expense to be incurred - an unbudgeted expense. Same with fishing - the piping used to aerate the lakes is being destroyed, which further fouls the lake.
ROCKS PROGRAMS AND POOL ISSUES PASSED
Beginning at 10:30 the agenda item involving attempts to salvage the ROCKS programs and the use of the municipal pool were discussed at length. Eventually the council voted for all of them, but Righeimer and Bever voted NO on the plan for the pool.
CROSS TOWN BIKE TRAIL TO BE STUDIED
At 11:10 they got around to the Cross Town Bike Trail and eventually voted to authorize a study to be done. Now the $35,000 necessary for that study will have to be found somewhere. Bever and Leece voted NO.
STAFF TO DEVELOP RECYCLING ZONING ORDINANCE
At 11:20 they tackled the proposal to change zoning for recycling facilities. It passed 5-0.
At 11:23, with 5 non-staffers in the audience, they received the shortest budget update in history, with more information to come at their January 11th Study Session, when they will have the midyear budget review. During the short discussion Monahan mentioned the word "freeze" in the context of discussing staffing levels. It went over everyone's head - except mine. That's how he introduced the closure of the Job Center - a casual comment at the end of a long meeting. That will be interesting to watch now.
LEECE NOW A PARIAH
Suffice it to say, the meeting last night was one for the ages. It was clear from the result that Wendy Leece will be a pariah for the next four years. She has, literally, been shoved aside, and her "outsider" status will only be amplified once a Foley replacement is named. That's really a shame, too, because she's being punished for doing what she was elected to do - make the best decisions she could for our city without bowing down to the GOP power brokers. We'll probably have to begin referring to her as "She who must be shunned".
LEECE REJECTION UNPOPULAR WITH CROWD
It was evident from the mood of the overflow crowd that the rejection of Wendy Leece by her peers on the dais was not popular - at all. When she was rejected in favor of Righeimer for the slot as Mayor Pro Tem the vote was followed by moans, groans and boos. This does not bode well for Righeimer and his attempt at conciliation. We can only wait and see until next year, when the deck will be further stacked in his favor.