Wendy's One-Woman Show
Monday night around 100 residents ventured to the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center to attend a Town Hall sponsored by City Councilwoman Wendy Leece. Leece reserved the Victoria Room which, as she observed, gave us a good view of the dozens of homeless folks hanging around the park. If your route took you from the library to the community center you were forced to step over and/or around several men sleeping on the grass between the buildings. It was a perfect preamble to a Town Hall on public safety.
GOOD FIRST STEP
I thought this meeting went off well, especially for the first one. Leece carried the ball most of the night, although she did enlist support from volunteer organizations and members of the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Costa Mesa Fire Department for some answers.
VOLUNTEER GROUPS REPRESENTED
She also provided an opportunity for Diane Hill of United Neighbors to present an overview of her community organizing activities and for the good folks who run the Costa Mesa Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program to make a brief pitch, too.
REGIME MEMBERS PRESENT
Several members of the current administration were present. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, apparently taking time out from his China trip preparations, stopped in for an hour. His young sycophant, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Ethan Temianka, left a little sooner. Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy attended with his young son. Planning Commissioner and Sanitary District Board member Jim Fitzpatrick stayed for a short while before wandering off into the evening. Councilman Steve Mensinger arrived early and stuck it out for the entire program. Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell was also present.
YOU HAD TO BE THERE...
As mentioned earlier, this event WAS NOT taped by CMTV, which is a real shame. There was enough good information presented that home viewers would certainly have benefited from the chance to watch it.
HISTORY AND QUESTION CARDS
Leece launched her program with a mini-history course to remind us all of the freedoms we have and need to protect. Throughout the evening she provided some boilerplate safety information, but drove most of her program off the questions submitted that evening by attendees. She did not permit verbal questions, which probably kept the emotion of the evening down. The crowd was respectful and concerned. In my opinion greater care should have been taken while sorting the question cards.
There were way, way too many inquires about the burgeoning Medical Marijuana dispensary businesses around town. Most were redundant. We did learn that there are anywhere from 30-50 such businesses in town; that they are being visited by code enforcement and/or the police frequently, but selectively; that Federal laws are not being enforced and that we're currently embroiled in lawsuits with some of the dispensaries.
REHAB HOMES A CONCERN
Another hot button issue for attendees apparently was the proliferation of half-way houses - drug and alcohol rehab facilities, of which there may be as many as 100 throughout the city. The police department attempts to monitor them to be sure they don't violate residency limitations. These facilities apparently are interwoven with the homeless problem in Costa Mesa and are part of the agenda being worked by the Homeless Task Force.
WHY IS GOP ANGRY WITH WENDY?
In response to a question about what kind of a promise she may have made to the OC GOP that has them so angry with her, she spent a good deal of time describing in great detail her falling-out with Scott Baugh, Chairman of the OC GOP and the circumstances that led to her being roundly criticized by him and the rest of the OC GOP hierarchy. Basically, she did what she felt was right for Costa Mesa - a view that Baugh apparently didn't like. Baugh's pal, Righeimer had departed by that time - I would have been curious about his reaction to Leece's comments.
POP WARNER GIFT A PRECEDENT?
A question was asked about the $10,000 donation given to Costa Mesa Pop Warner Football recently, and wondered if other youth sports groups could expect similar generosity in the future. Leece's response was that, now that the precedent had been set, she didn't see how we could refuse any of them.
POLICY 100-6 WILL SLOW THINGS DOWN
The outsourcing plan was discussed and Leece opined that it is a good thing that the council policy - 100-6 - was identified and that we will now be following it. It will slow down the process and provide an opportunity for greater input by city staff. She said the council had been behaving recklessly with the outsourcing and that this change of pace should be helpful.
EMS COORDINATOR DUTIES
One audience member expressed concern for the duties of now-departed Emergency Medicine Services Coordinator, Larry Grihalva, who provided a wide range of services to the city. Battalion Chief Diamond explained that he will be missed, and that most of the duties he had would be spread out among members of the Fire Department leadership and others would simply not get done.
LACK OF FIRE MARSHALL A CONCERN
A similar question was asked about the duties of the Fire Marshall, which we do not presently have. Diamond said the acting Chief, Kirk Dominic, would take up that slack.
NEED TO MOVE FORWARD
Leece ended by reiterating a theme she followed throughout the evening. She said what's happened, has happened and that the city needs to learn from it and move forward. She encouraged everyone in attendance to get involved, either through CERT, Diane Hill's United Neighbors and/or attend council meetings and write letters when they have concerns. Since she is termed out, Leece clearly was not campaigning last evening. She said, "We need to work together as Costa Mesans."
SNOWDEN TO RECEIVE THE JACK WEBB AWARD NEXT MONTH
As an aside, I was pleased to be seated next to former Costa Mesa Police Chief Dave Snowden last night. He served this city for almost two decades as Chief and was instrumental in creating and implementing many of the excellent law enforcement programs in effect in Costa Mesa today. As most know, he is currently the Chief of Police in Beverly Hills. At a dinner in Beverly Hills on September 10th Snowden will receive the prestigious Jack Webb award for his 45 years of illustrious law enforcement service. This award is presented by the Los Angeles Police Historical Society. You can see the announcement at their web site, HERE. Congratulations to Chief Snowden for this well-deserved award.
If you attended the Town Hall at the Neighborhood Community Center last night and drive a Scion XB - that boxy little cruiser similar to the one in this photo - that is gold, bronze or orange in color, or you know someone with that kind of car at the meeting last night, please contact me directly using the email address on the profile page of my blog. I have very important information for you.