Mensinger Appointed To City Council
To the surprise of no one and the disappointment of many, Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Steve Mensinger was appointed to the seat vacated by Katrina Foley last month.
LUCK OF THE DRAW AND A SLAM DUNK
In a process that took two hours and saw 49 speakers stand to support one candidate or another - including one mother and two wives - when it came time to decide who would have the chance to make the first nomination the luck of the draw saw Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer pull #1out of the bag. He promptly nominated his pal and former business associate, Mensinger, who was elected on a 3-1 vote, with WendyLeece voting no.
HALF THE SPEAKERS WANTED MCEVOY
This was probably the most interesting selection process I've observed. Half of the people who stood before the four members of the council charged with selecting a peer from the pool of eight candidates were in favor of Chris McEvoy. As you will recall, McEvoy finished a strong third in the November 2nd election, with nearly 11,000 votes - 26% of the votes cast. Many of those speaking in favor of his candidacy did so with much passion, recounting how he had impressed them during the campaign and that he was "one of them". McEvoy's mother stood to tell the council and the audience of the many wonderful qualities her son possesses - something many of us had figured out a couple years ago when he first ran for City Council. Those comments fell on deaf ears. McEvoy was the only applicant to stand and present reasons why he thought he was the best choice, acknowledging the need for a diversity of views on the council and that he didn't agree with any of them politically, but that he could certainly work with them.
FAMILY AND FOOTBALL PLAYERS PRAISE MENSINGER
As the comment period moved on several speakers rose to support Mensinger, including members of the Estancia High School football team, who arrived wearing their game jerseys. Coaches and parents of players also praised Mensinger, as did his wife. She addressed his many qualities, but did acknowledge that he can be a handful to live with. Robert Murtha, Sr., father of star running back Robert Murtha who had spoken earlier, stood to heap more praise on Mensinger, stating unequivocally that he would have beaten Righeimer if he had chosen to run in the past election, then praised him for his leadership in youth football.
RIGHEIMER THINKS HE'S IN CHARGE
During his little speech following his nomination of Mensinger, Righeimer went way, way beyond any border of appropriateness as he chided McEvoy's candidacy, indicating that, when compared to Mensinger, "he's not even close!" Righeimer went on and on, frequently stating, " I need him here..." referring to Mensinger. It became very clear that Righeimer thinks he is in charge on the dais, which should make for some very interesting meetings in the future.
MENSINGER COULDN'T WAIT TO SPEAK
Mensinger, like a horse in the starting gate, was in such a hurry to address the council and audience that he almost didn't let City Clerk Julie Folcik swear him in - another one of those little nuisance formalities that he's going to probably try to stiff arm as we move forward - like the Brown Act.
HE WOULD RATHER COACH...
Mensinger thanked many people during his longish speech. Not that he actually expected to be appointed, but he did have a very lengthy speech prepared to help celebrate his 49th birthday Tuesday evening. He talked about his activities with youth sports in Costa Mesa and actually said he'd much rather be a coach than a council member. Now he tells us!
WORDS TO LIVE BY...
He acknowledged the big influence on his life former Ambassador George L. Argyros has had. Mensinger worked for him for many years. He did make what turned out to be an interesting statement. He said, "We need to put politics aside and solve problems." As the evening wore on it was clear that his pals on the dais forgot about that "putting politics aside" part... more on that in a minute.
NOW IT'S LEECE AGAINST THE GUYSSo, we now have a City Council of four kindred spirits - Eric Bever, Gary Monahan, Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger - and Wendy Leece. Unfortunately for Leece, she is almost certainly going to find herself on the short side of many 4-1 votes. The votes last night certainly demonstrated that division.
BUDGET STUDY SESSION TUESDAY
Before moving on to the commission appointments, let me observe that there will be a budget study session next Tuesday, the 11th, at which time the council will be brought up to speed on the precise condition of our city's finances. Finance gadfly Judi Berry spoke during public comments and trotted out some graphs that she says showed that the city had burned through over $50 million in cash over the past three years. Righeimer picked up on this and made it clear that he was gearing up to do something about it. During his "Mensinger" speech he mentioned a couple times that "we need people up here who can say 'no'". Look out, public employee unions - he's coming after you.
COMMISSION APPOINTMENTS NEXT
The meeting moved on to the appointment of Planning and Parks and Recreation Commissioners. Both had rosters of excellent candidates, including some incumbents and some highly-qualified newcomers. Four Planning Commissioners were selected - three four-year positions and one two-year slot to fill Mensinger's unexpired term. Three Parks and Recreation Commissioners were selected.
DICKSON AND CLARK
Eric Bever nominated paralegal Robert Dickson, a frequent commenter on these pages and in the Daily Pilot blog in the past. He was seconded by Mayor Gary Monahan and chosen to fill one of the 4-year slots, 5-0. Then, curiously, Mensinger nominated current Planning Commission Vice Chair Sam Clark for the 2-year slot, which was seconded by Leece. He was also appointed on a 5-0 vote, but this certainly represents a backhand to Clark, who had every right to expect to be appointed to his own 4-year term.
Monahan then nominated incumbent Jim Fitzpatrick, who was seconded by Mensinger. No surprise there - Fitzpatrick has been attached to Mensinger's hip like a barnacle for the past couple years. Leece asked City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow whether a decision had been reached about Fitzpatrick's eligibility to serve both on the Planning Commission AND the Sanitary District Board to which he was just elected in November. She hemmed and hawed and said she wasn't the person to make that decision, but that the Attorney General might be. She did say that if his positions were challenged and it was determined that he could not serve on both, then he would have to give up the position he held before accepting the most recent one - in this case, that meant he would have to give up the Sanitary Board seat. Monahan leaped to his defense and Fitzpatrick was re-appointed to a 4-year term on a 4-1 vote.
SALCEDO OVER MATHEWS
Leece then nominated Parks and Recreation Commissioner and GOP activist Jeff Mathews but, curiously, received no second. Righeimer then nominated Edward Salcedo, who was appointed to the remaining 4-year term, 4-1 - Leece voting no.
NEW PLANNING COMMISSION
The new Planning Commission will be incumbents Colin McCarthy, Fitzpatrick, Clark(briefly) and newcomers Dickson and Salcedo.
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION INCUMBENTS OUSTED
Then came the nominations for the Parks and Recreation Commission. No incumbent whose term was up was returned to the commission! Leece nominated incumbent Terry Shaw, but received no second. Monahan nominated newcomer Dan Vozenilek, who was appointed 5-0. Mensinger nominated newcomer Dean Abernathy, who was appointed 4-1, with Leece voting no. Bever nominated Gary Peacock but received no second. Finally, to nobody's surprise, Righeimer nominated his campaign aide, Ethan Temianka, who was appointed with a 4-1 vote - Leece voting no. Vozenilek, Abernathy and Temianka will join Mathews and Kim Pederson on the commission. That means that former chairmen of the commission Mike Brumbaugh and Kurt Galitski join Shaw without a seat on the commission. So much for setting politics aside. It sure looks to me like the big Righeimer broom is sweeping aside anyone who might oppose his initiatives in the future.
AGENDA ITEMS SHUFFLED...
I almost forgot... Gary Monahan's initiative to change the agenda for council meetings passed with only superficial discussion. The closed sessions will be held at the end of the meetings instead of before. There will be a new "Announcements" section immediately following the roll call. Council member comments will also be moved to the end, just before the reports by the City Attorney and City Manager and the 5:30 pre-meeting (where they used to be served a meal and discuss the agenda before the regular meeting) has been abandoned. They lost those meals due to budget considerations over a year ago.
DIGESTING THESE CHANGES IS TOUGH
It's going to take a little time to digest the results of these appointments. It seems clear that Righeimer is moving to strengthen his position now that he's finally actually won an election. I suspect we're going to see immediate initiatives to take drastic measures with city finances some of which will almost certainly result in departures of senior city staffers in the near future. The specter of losing decades of experience seems not to bother this new batch of "leaders".
ADIOS, PUBLIC SAFETY?
I wouldn't be surprised to see moves made to outsource public safety to the county authorities in the near future. You may recall that the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association proposed to pay for a study of having the Orange County Fire Authority take over their jobs. No word has been heard about that since this past summer. With the leadership vacuum in the Costa Mesa Police Department there seems to be an opportunity for Righeimer and his pals to shed themselves of having to worry about their adversaries on the CMPD. Also watch for a move to dump the A.B.L.E program in what will be presented as a cost-saving move.
REPLACED A DOLT WITH A DEVIOUS GUY
I'm afraid that we've managed to replace the now-departed Allan Mansoor with a much more dangerous political ideologue - Jim Righeimer. Mansoor was dangerous, but a dolt - unable to actually affect the changes he wanted. Righeimer is much more dangerous because he's a crafty guy with great political connections - unless Scott Baugh's leadership of the OC GOP is successfully challenged. It won't be long until Righeimer's true intentions are known. At that time there are going to be several thousand Costa Mesans kicking themselves for ever electing this guy.