Mini-Marathon Of Mischief
We learned a few things during last night's marathon Costa Mesa City Council meeting. Is it still a "marathon" if it ends short of midnight? Last night they finally wrapped things up at 11:50, so maybe it was only a "mini-marathon" I just know that I was thoroughly wrung out, having arrived at council chambers at 4:45 to be sure I had a place to sit. You can watch the entire meeting on streaming video HERE.
BEVER BATTING .500
We learned, for example, that the lamest of lame duck council members, Eric Bever, apparently plans to continue his record of occasional appearances at the meetings for which he's being paid to serve the residents of our city. He missed last night's meeting, so that he's batting .500 for the month and year. However, he can make it .666 if he makes the next council meeting on the 17th. We know, because he's told it to us from the dais, that he "didn't sign up for this". And, as he told us at the last meeting, if we didn't like it "tough luck!" Actually, he wasn't missed last night.
"HEARING" VS. "LISTENING"
We also learned that there's a VERY big difference between "hearing" and "listening". Dictionary.com provides this definition of the word "hearing": opportunity to be heard. It defines the word "listen" thus: to pay attention; heed; obey. Last night the Costa Mesa City Council "heard" us, but they certainly didn't "listen".
As mentioned in my earlier post about the demise of the Redevelopment Agency, a huge crowd tried to attend the first public hearing of Jim Righeimer's Charter scheme last night. In large part because the activist group, Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, had flooded the city with fliers announcing the hearing (with an incorrect start time of 6:00), by the time the meeting began following the RDA meeting, every single seat in the council chambers was filled - it seats nearly 200 souls and is rated for 256 - overflow viewing available in Conference Room 1A was packed with another 25 interested parties and approximately 100 others stood on and around the council chambers porch, watching and listening to the proceedings on the television monitor placed there by the CMTV staff. And the crowd was not a happy group.
SOME RELEVANT NUMBERS
Let's look at some of the numbers from last night:
- Estimated attendees to the meeting, all venues - 325
- Number of council members present - 4
- Number of speakers that addressed the council - 55
- Number of speakers who supported the Charter - 3
- Number of speakers who requested inclusion of a Prevailing Wage clause - 27
- Number of speakers who defended the Charter by conjuring up the specter of the Communist Manifesto - 1
- Number of speakers who threw that right back in his face later - 1
- Number of suggestions for amendments, additions and/or deletions to the Charter submitted before the meeting - 102
- Number of those suggestions the council actually adopted to be included in Righeimer's Charter - 8
- Number of breaks taken during the meeting - 4
- Number of times Mayor Monahan scolded the audience - 1
- Number of motions made by Wendy Leece on items to be included that received no "second" - 4 (maybe more, I lost track)
- Number of attendees waving green fliers in lieu of clapping - 100 (estimate)
- Number of attendees who departed the auditorium following Public Comments, but before the discussion and vote - 50 (estimate)
HATCH TO LOBDELL
City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch kicked off the meeting by providing a little history, sorting out a schedule issue, then turned it over to Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell, who outlined the various resources available to interested parties who might want to know more about the Charter. In my opinion, despite the fact that I think this process stinks, The City has done a remarkable job of providing information on the subject on the web site and also provided an easy-to-use button on the page for folks to include suggestions and ask questions.
"FATHER" OF THE PLAN
Then, the sperm donor of this bogus scheme, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, launched off into his segment of this meeting by saying, "Since I started this...." Boy, is that ever true! It is Righeimer, and Righeimer alone, who launched this ballistic missile into the heart of our city and now we're all going to suffer the fallout.
He introduced HIS Charter, which was part of the handouts for the meeting, and - despite saying he wasn't going to read it to us - he proceeded to do just that! Of course, he didn't read EVERY word - he conveniently skipped over some of the more onerous segments. It got to be so frustrating at times that one member of the audience - long-time resident Alan Remington - jumped up and called out to Mayor Gary Monahan to stop Righeimer from reading. He was so vociferous that the Sergeant-at-arms had to escort him from the auditorium. (He later returned, apologized to the audience - but not the council - and took his turn at speaking before the council.)
A CURIOUS REPLY
One interesting sidebar during Righeimer's presentation was the question Wendy Leece asked him. After he read the preamble of his Charter, word-for-word, to the audience, Leece asked him where, specifically, the language for the Preamble came from. He mumbled and stumbled and when she persisted his reply was, "I have no idea.", which was pretty curious, since he tells us he spent months as he cobbled this thing together all by himself by copying and pasting from other Charters from several cities.
THREE HOURS OF PUBLIC COMMENT!
After an hour of banter, at precisely 8:00 the council began hearing Public Comments. Three hours, several breaks, one ouster, one scolding and 55 speakers later they had finally exhausted the supply of concerned folks wanting to talk and began their negotiations of changes.
ALMOST HALF SPOKE FOR THE PREVAILING WAGE
Before we get to that, though, there were a few highlights from the speakers that need to be addressed, among them were the large number of union representatives/workers who rose to speak in support of a Prevailing Wage in the Charter. Not quite half the speakers mentioned the Prevailing Wage. From their body language, you could almost see the council majority mentally discounting those comments as rants from outside agitators. Righeimer came close to saying those words at one point.
REGULARS AND NEWBIES
As always, there was a cadre of regular attendees at these events who took the time to actually investigate the issue and willingly stepped up to the podium to address the council, knowing full well that they may be chided for their trouble. And, that did happen. I won't try to quote every single speaker, but they all were respectful and straightforward with their comments. And, it was very refreshing to see some new faces - folks who had never spoken before, but took the time to address this important issue with the council last night.
One interesting feature in the audience last night was the prevalence of the bright green fliers. Organizers suggested to members of the audience that, rather than clap and otherwise make noise to support the comments of speakers, they simply wave their green fliers in the air to show support. It seemed to be quite an effective tool. From my vantage point in the back of the room, sometimes it was like sitting in a tree on a windy day - all the "leaves" were aflutter. This, of course, antagonized the council - as resident pouty bully Steve Mensinger told us at the end of the meeting.
PERRY SPEAKS, GARY LOSES IT
I will give you a short 3-minute video clip taken from the City feed of retired Planning Department official and 40-year resident, Perry Valantine. As is always the case, he presents the issue with vision and clarity and presents the council with respectful points to consider. He left us with the best tag line of the evening - "Do it right, don't do it fast."At the very end of the clip you'll hear ONE person in the audience clap (and can see the "fluttering" mentioned above) that caused Monahan to lose his grip. He immediately called another "5-minute break", which turned out to be 15 minutes. He returned to scold the audience for being too boisterous. Ha! He should have been in Huntington Beach last Thursday, but that's another story.
During the first hour of Public Comments Planning Commissioner/Sanitary District Board member, Eastside Costa Mesa resident and #1 council bootlicker Jim Fitzpatrick rose to praise Righeimer for his Charter. During his pandering rant, apparently to deflect criticism of Righeimer's Charter, Jimmy Fitzy mentioned that the Declaration of Independence was 1,458 words (including signatures, the United States Constitution is 4,543 words and the Communist Manifesto (gasp!) is 18,000 words. The implication, of course, is briefer is better. Well, a few minutes later resident Maryann O'Connell stepped up to set him straight. I'll let her speak for herself:
(Incidentally, if you cannot view those two video clips from the city feed you will have to download Microsoft Silverlight software. You can find the download HERE.)
AUDIENCE BAILED OUT TOO EARLY
At 11:00, after the Public Comments had ended, most of the audience bailed out, apparently not caring about whether the council actually listened to them or not. Had they stayed another fifteen minutes they would have seen that, with very few exceptions, they did not. Of the more than 100 comments and suggestions - including the complete presentation of two other city charters for their consideration - and numerous verbal suggestions that evening, the council majority (minus Bever, of course) selected only 8 items for inclusion with Righeimer's Charter. I'm not going to try to give you the full text of each addition here - you can read each of them on the list HERE.
FORMS OF GOVERNMENT, SECTION 200
- Section 201 add #1, dealing with qualifications, including residency requirements.
- Section 206 add Code of Ethics
- Section 300, amend per #2 modifying Ordinance implementation date to coincide with current code.
- Section 302, #6, dealing with Planning and Zoning
- Section 401, add #7 dealing with construction and maintenance contracts.
- Section 602.1, add #6, proclaiming that the city is a right to work City. No employee is required to join a union or the OC Employee Association.
- Add #18, protecting status as "Rule of Law" City and continues to oppose illegal immigration violations and so-called "Safe Harbor" cities.
- Section 801, add #4, dealing with a Charter Review.
That was it! All other segments of Righeimer's Charter, including his version of his previously-rejected Paycheck Protection Plan, Section 603 in his Charter, remains intact. Also remaining is Section 602, which requires a vote of the people, not a vote of the elected council, to increase employee retirement benefits in the future. And, of course, the section under Fiscal Matters deleting the requirement for the Prevailing Wage remains part of the Draft Charter.
REVISED DRAFT AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
The revised draft will be produced and placed on the City web site - probably this week. The City will continue to receive and consider other amendments and comments until the second Public Hearing, which is now scheduled for Monday, February 13th at 7:00 in City Council Chambers. The only mention of possible other informational meetings was made by contract City Attorney Tom Duarte, who recommended we NOT hold any more between now and February 13th.
Incidentally, the meeting was changed from February 14th apparently because "someone" has a conflict. Gee, I wonder if Valentine's Day is a big dollar day at Skosh Monahan's gin mill? Just asking...
MENSINGER'S INFANTILE BEHAVIOR
Of course, I can't close without observing the infantile behavior of Steve Mensinger at the end of the meeting. He ranted and raved, chiding residents who dared step up and speak against their plans, waving a copy of the green flier around like he'd found the Holy Grail. One must assume that he is so certain of election in the fall that he really doesn't care how stupid he looks up there on the dais. I guess we'll see how that goes.