Fireworks, Greed, Civility and Real Business
Tuesday night, during a long meeting that was generally civil, the most memorable line of the evening was delivered by second-term councilwoman Wendy Leece to non-elected councilman Steve Mensinger.
Following a long discussion about whether or not to expand the sales of fireworks an additional day, add "spinner-type" fireworks and permit the discharge of those fireworks on four consecutive days beginning on July 1st instead of only on July 4th as in years past, during which nearly two dozen residents and interested parties stood to voice their views on the proposed change and fireworks in general, Leece made a lengthy plea for wisdom on the part of the council, suggesting that they approve the additional sale day but to restrict the discharge to the 4th. During one of her comments she referred to the youth sports groups that would benefit significantly as being "greedy", a characterization that apparently rankled Mensinger.
When it was his turn to speak, his voice choked with emotion, he delivered the following backhand blast at Leece: "Councilwoman Leece, I'm not sure, ah, I don't know how to react to the fact that you think that the kids in the youth sports groups are greedy. But let it be reflected in the record, I haven't, ah, I've been involved again in youth sports for a decade. I haven't had fireworks or had the opportunity to light fireworks myself because I'm always in a booth. In that period of time I haven't seen you there. And in that period of time I haven't seen you do a lot of fund raising for the, ah, youth sports groups, but I appreciate your concerns and and I do, ah, do understand your points. I do think your anger at the youth groups is misappropriated." I have no idea what that last word meant - maybe "inappropriate".. who knows?
"YOU WILL NOT, MR. MENSINGER, BULLY ME!"
Later, following further discussion and as the vote was about to be taken, Leece responded, "I don't think that when we're up here representing the residents we need to get personal and attack each other personally. I have lived in this city almost forty years, raised five children and I have worked in fireworks stands to raise money for many people. And, actually, I have bought fireworks last year. I think I still have the sparklers in the closet that went unused. So I don't appreciate it, Councilman Mensinger. I have been elected to this office by the people of Costa Mesa. And for you to sit up here and to demean me and to criticize me when I have given to this community over and over again with my time and with my money, you have no business, you have no right and you will not, Mr. Mensinger, bully me!" And the crowd roared... And the motion passed, 3-2, with Eric Bever joining Leece in voting No.
"WHAT THE HECK, GIVE IT A TRY!"
Almost lost in this debate was the position taken by Jim Righeimer and Gary Monahan that we should "give it a try" and if it doesn't work out we can talk about changes. So, we're going to have a long weekend of noise, smoke, frantic pets and overworked public safety staff so youth sports groups can reap a windfall at the expense of the half of the residents of this city that prefer NOT to have ANY fireworks, but have tolerated them for nearly two decades since the question was placed on the ballot that ended up virtually tied.
KEEPING MY FINGERS CROSSED...
I'm not a big fan of fireworks in neighborhoods and I certainly hope that there are no tragic incidents attributed to them this year. If our already diminished public safety teams are unable to promptly respond to emergency calls due to the heavy demand over that weekend there will be three council members with some serious explaining to do.
There were other things on the agenda, too, which the council finally began discussion at 9:00 p.m. Public Hearing Item #1, a review of a planned project on Maple Street, was approved with a condition applied by the Planning Commission removed and #2, the discussion of the awarding CDBG funds was continued to a later meeting.
APPLICANTS TO CITY COMMITTEES REJECTED
Under Old Business, the appointments to city committees, Monahan moved to have the recruitment process re-started. Leece balked, saying that there were plenty of good, qualified candidates in the pool available to them right now. She lost and the recruitment effort will begin again.
CIVILITY WANDERS OFF AGAIN
During the update of Working Group activities Righeimer, once again, demonstrated his disdain for previous councils, and for the employee groups. He misrepresented facts and, during a reply to Leece regarding the possibility of engaging in a "meet and confer" process, he went on a little mini-rant, stating, "I will just say that the contracts and the MOUs that we have are something that nobody in their right mind would sign." Leece subsequently reminded him that both she and Monahan were members who voted on the current agreements, as were many previous councils that considered the circumstances at the time and felt it was necessary to remain competitive, hence the current contracts. Righeimer has apparently forgotten the portion of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act that compels a "meet and confer" process - probably because it's not convenient for him.
NO CHANGE FOR LED LIGHTS - WHEW!
The council dispatched with the four New Business items promptly. The discussion of possible revisions to the Sign Ordinance proposed by the Planning Commission resulted three items being passed - changes to the way building wall signage is calculated and two items dealing with free-standing signs - one, the size limitation of painted wall signs, was sent back for a review of what other cities do on the issue and the final item, LED signs, was kept under the current plan to the relief of many residents who had done their homework and spoke with passion on the issue.
RIGHEIMER BECOMES A BOUNTY HUNTER
Just before they adjourned to what was probably a very long closed session involving 5 items at 11:00, under Council Member Comments, Righeimer expressed concern for "threats against council people, staff and appointeds", and went on to suggest that we need a "policy or something" to prove it's not funny. He suggested that a reward program be implemented and instructed CEO Tom Hatch to come back with something. I'm not exactly sure what he was talking about other than the brick that was tossed through Monahan's door recently and the reported threat against him by a mentally-deranged person already in custody. He nodded toward the staff when he made his statement, so it's possible there have been threats made there, too. This "reward" thing smacks of over-reaction by someone trying to quiet critics. We'll see.
STUDY SESSION NEXT WEEK
The next meeting will be a Study Session on the Budget again on Tuesday, May 10th in Council Chambers at 4:30.. "transparency" on the march. There are meetings scheduled EVERY Tuesday from now until, and including, June 28th.