If You Thought It Was Bad Before...
I'm not quite sure how to begin this one. I stayed home from the City Council meeting last night, nursing a couple of physical ailments, figuring I'd be more comfortable at home than in the council chambers. As it turned out, if I'd been in the council chambers the lovely Officer Meng might have had to haul me out in handcuffs! I'm glad I stayed home, but I'm angry about the proceedings, nonetheless.
GOOD AND BAD
The meeting started nicely enough, with some wonderful presentations, including a well-deserved recognition of former mayor Jack Hammett with the presentation of the Mayor's Award. That was great, but had a downside, too. Unfortunately, our increasingly-irrelevant Assemblyman, Allan Mansoor, returned to the council chambers to give Hammett a resolution from the State of California. He probably has plenty of time on his hands these days, since he's not making much of an impact in Sacramento.
"A SYMPTOM OF THE DYSFUNCTION OF THIS COUNCIL"
When Public Comments began speaker after speaker used at least part of their three minutes to scold Mayor Gary Monahan for his behavior at the previous meeting. Those views may have been expressed best by gentle Tamar Goldman, for example, who was almost apologetic for finding it necessary to say the following:
"The conduct of the last City Council meeting was a disgrace. The agenda was manipulated so the concerned citizens would not be heard. Many, including me, had to leave before the opportunity for public comments. And even the Consent Calendar was delayed. This Consent Calendar had a couple items which, it was very clear, would arouse comments. The extension of temporary outside consultants with very generous pay, which is wrong, a drain on the city and a contradiction on your claim that the city is short of money."
"This manipulation of the meeting is a symptom of the dysfunction of this council. When what you're doing is good and honorable, when your public actions reflect the ethical standards you have learned, when you as leaders act responsibly and responsively to the voters, there is no need to stifle dissent. In fact, there wouldn't be the dissent that you've been facing for the past few months."
"Your critics, whether they express themselves in writing, by speaking, with lawn signs or by singing, are widespread and diverse. Your efforts to pigeon-hole us as a specific group are wrong. We are staunch Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We come from all walks of life - including the professions, self-employed business leaders and civic leaders. We live in neighborhoods all over the city. In fact, one tiny silver lining for me in the dark cloud that you've cast over Costa Mesa has been the opportunity to meet so many intelligent, well-spoken, public-spirited members of the community."
"Your opponents are not out for themselves, not out for political or personal gain, not even out, as has been the case with me in the past, for some particular need for their own neighborhood. The problems you have created are not narrow neighborhood problems. You're endangering the health, both literally and figuratively, of the whole city. You even managed to anger a well-respected law enforcement official whom you had recently hired to the point he wrote a scathing letter of criticism and resigned."
"How much more, and what else do reasonable people have to do, to convince you that change is needed? I beseech you to stop, think, analyze and understand that you're throwing good money after bad in order to make a narrow political point. The residents of this city want only responsible and responsive government. Please, wake up! You all, in your hearts, can do better and end this nightmare that you've created."
Of course, the council ignored that passionate plea and shrugged off other critics, as well, but not without some confrontational retorts.
KOKEN DIDN'T SING THIS TIME
She was followed by Terry Koken, who was quite obviously not in a singing mood last night. He used his three minutes to passionately scold Monahan for his heavy-handedness at the earlier meeting, citing the Constitution and his right of free speech. I'll include a video clip of his presentation when it becomes available - it's worth seeing.
THE WORST PART...
The worst part of the evening, in my view, was the reaction by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer and councilman Steve Mensinger during the discussion of the request from Costa Mesa Pop Warner Football for what Wendy Leece described as an improper use of public money.
Righeimer began his rant with this question: "What have we gotten to here?" That's a great question, Jim! What HAVE we gotten to? He then dismissed the $10,000 that was being discussed for "hours" and diverted the discussion to pensions! He looked directly at Helen Nenedal, the President of the Costa Mesa City Employee's Association who had spoken earlier and, shaking his pen at her, said, " Ms. Nenedal, we have enough money to run our city, we just can't afford the cost of your employees." He then launched into a tirade about vacation days, sick pay and on and on. He complained about the council chambers being the only place he gets "beat up" - his words, not mine. He told the audience that "everywhere else he goes" people tell him "don't stop!" He may have misunderstood those comments. It's very possible they meant "Don't stop until you're across the city limits." That's what I'd be saying...
THE "GUN-TOTING PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR"
During his rant he reached a point where he, once again, asked the question, "What have we gotten to in this community? We've got a labor union hiring a gun-toting private investigator questioning student athletes about their signs." He looked directly at Nenedal again and questioned her about it. When Leece tried to make a point of order Monahan said Righeimer had the floor. Righeimer then, with an angry attitude, said, "Point of order? I'll give you point of order!", then continued with his harangue, which included an oblique accusation that Leece's vote on the employee contracts last fall had been "bought" by a $26,000 contribution the day before the vote. An angry Leece challenged his allegation, but received no response - the damage had been done.
MENSINGER TAKES THE BATON...
Mensinger took the baton and kept running - straight at Nenadal. And, when he was not sniping at Leece, accusing her of not knowing the issue or accusing her of voting for programs that somehow provided her with money, he was ripping speakers for the audacity they showed in criticizing him. He went so far as to quantify his contributions - which he told the audience was over a half-million dollars worth of time and energy - as he personally saved football in Costa Mesa. His ego is so huge I was afraid it might explode and severely injure members of the audience.
I wondered on this site before about the propriety of him even being in the auditorium during this debate, since he is the most recent past president of Pop Warner, much less leading the advocacy for its request. During the discussion he described his role as past president as "mentoring the current president". Well, isn't that just great! Speaker Perry Valantine posed the question and contract City Attorney Tom Duarte said Mensinger had no conflict. OK, "no conflict" is one thing, but being the primary spokesman for the organization - Mensinger carried the ball almost exclusively and kept referring to "we" when talking about Pop Warner football - is something else all together. The more he talked the angrier he got. And the angrier he got the more he made backhanded comments directed against Leece. The guy really is a no-class thug and bully.
MORE DISTURBING THAN EVER
I came away from watching this meeting more disturbed than any of the other contentious meeting this year - and there have been many, many meetings since January that were very frustrating. This one, though, demonstrated the "in your face" attitude Righeimer and Mensinger have with the public. I've said many times that they don't like to be told "No"... well, tonight demonstrated that better than any other meeting I've seen. They're giving us that old "There's a new sheriff in town" routine. They, along with the part time, part time councilman, Eric Bever, have decided to begin blaming previous councils and employees - including former City Manager Allan Roeder - for every ill in the city. That behavior is disgraceful and completely inappropriate.
WATCH FOR RULE VIOLATIONS
These men are quite obviously not happy about the rules of municipal governance that constrain them. I fully expect them to brush those rules aside as they continue their slash and burn tactics in our city.
"V" IS FOR VINDICTIVE
And, finally, I was very concerned about Mensinger's "I'm not going to forget about it" comment when referring to the accusations and investigation of the "student athletes" in the missing signs situation. A couple times last night he tried to use the words "vehement, venom and vitriol", but got them tangled up. He forgot one "v" word - vindictive. That's what he was showing to us last night, leaving us with the implied threat of retaliation. He seemed so angry about the issue that I had the impression last night that he would sweep every municipal employee out the door today if he could find a way to do it legally. If the Costa Mesa employees thought it was bad so far, I'm afraid that, as the old saying goes, "They ain't seen nothin' yet".
WHAT ABOUT THAT "STREET SWEEPING" RUMOR?
Oh, yes.. During Public Comments Valantine asked about the rumor heard yesterday that the city is in negotiations with the Costa Mesa Sanitary District about the District taking over the street sweeping operations for the City. We know there is an RFP in the works with a distribution date of tomorrow. However, we, too, have heard the rumor that included very specific information about conversations between the City and the Sanitary District yesterday. We find ourselves wondering if this may not be an end-run around the court ordered injunction. The City may continue to pursue outsourcing to other government entities - like the Sanitary District. However, the Sanitary District does not have any equipment to sweep our streets and would very likely have to outsource the job itself, maybe to their current trash company, CR&R. Does that violate the spirit of the injunction, since it would be a private company doing the job as a contractor? That sounds like a question for Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann. It also sounds like it would be more expensive than the City contracting out that job to another entity directly since the District would be a middle man and would certainly expect a little profit for their trouble.
STUDY SESSION NEXT TUESDAY
The next meeting of this council will be their Study Session on Tuesday, August 9th. The agenda for that meeting will be distributed in a couple days. After that there is no meeting scheduled until the day after the Labor Day holiday. It's a good time for a little vacation but there's plenty of time for mischief by those in charge of my city, so we'll just keep on watching and reporting.