City Council Meeting Wrap...
Yes, the Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night was another long one. While it began a little late, at 6:15, because of an extended Closed Session, it actually ended before midnight, 11:40, for a change. It was still a very long evening. You can view the streaming video of the meeting HERE.
ANGRY MEDICAL MARIJUANA SPEAKERS
One of the reasons for the length of this particular meeting was the attendance of several proponents of Medical Marijuana, angry and frustrated by the recent closure of so-called dispensaries throughout our city and by the abrupt removal of a marijuana advocacy radio program, Cannabis Community, from local radio station KOCI-LPFM, 101.5 FM last Sunday morning. I'm not going to talk about that event again here - I covered it at length in my earlier entries.
MORE THAN A DOZEN
Of the 31 people who spoke in the Public Comments segment of the meeting, 14 spoke on the medical marijuana issue. The first speaker, Sue Lester - a former operator of a dispensary in Costa Mesa and also a former city council candidate - tried to explain her version of events around the removal of the program from KOCI last Sunday. The second speaker, who identified herself as Joyce Weitzberg, tested Mayor Gary Monahan's patience as she passionately used her three minutes, then refused to stop talking until she passed the five minute mark. As Monahan continued to remind her that her time was up I watched as the security officer behind her began to pace. I was fearful that, if she didn't stop talking, Monahan would have her removed from the dais. Visions of Benito Acosta being dragged from council chambers a few years ago flashed before my eyes.
CHIHUAHUA, DILDO AND BEER
As I said, more than a dozen speakers presented impassioned pleas to the council, many worried that they would have to either go to Santa Ana to buy their "medicine" or buy it "from a gang member outside the 7-11". Of the many memorable speakers on this issue, the video clip below may have been the most memorable. In all the years I've watched council meetings, I can tell you this is the first time I've heard that word spoken from the podium.
HATCH ON CHANGES AT THE CMPD
After the Public Comments segment, which stretched until 8:00, CEO Tom Hatch made his presentation. He told us that the Front Desk at the Police Station at 99 Fair Drive will now be open from 9-5 on Saturdays to better serve the public. He also mentioned a new schedule for the Police Department that will provide more efficient coverage with the reduced staffing levels that have been imposed by this council. That's good news for us all.
HATCH ON CHARTER ISSUES
Hatch also mentioned the second public hearing on Righeimer's Charter, which is scheduled for next Monday, February 13, 2012 in City Council chambers beginning at 7:00 p.m. He also mentioned that there will be an informational mailer to all city residents about Righeimer's Charter this week. Monday will be the LAST chance for items to be added to the Charter before the final vote is taken to place it on the June ballot on March 6th. Items can be deleted from the proposed language following next Monday's meeting, but not added.
AND ON BUDGET AND HOMELESS TASK FORCE
He also mentioned the special study session on February 28th that will include discussions on the Mid-year Budget Review and the final report from the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force.
The only Public Hearing on the agenda, that of the new policies, fees and bylaws for the two community gardens, was approved as written. The gardens will, henceforth, be only available to Costa Mesa residents. I gave you the link to the staff report in my earlier entry.
The General Plan Screening Request for a Walgreen's Pharmacy at the site of the now-defunct Tower Records site along Newport Boulevard breezed through. This is just the very beginning of a process that will, hopefully, finally place a viable business at that very visible, busy location in our city. The process now moves forward through the Planning Commission.
19TH STREET BRIDGE
The elephant in the room, the resolution to, once again, affirm the City's rejection of a bridge over the Santa Ana River at 19th Street, generated a lot of discussion. Fourteen people spoke against the bridge and one person, Mesa Verde resident Phil Morello, spoke in favor of it. He's also a property owner on the Westside and apparently feels the need for more traffic down 19th Street to maximize the potential of the revitalization plans for that part of town - and the enhancement of his property values in the process. Mesa Verde resident and activist Cindy Brenneman, when speaking about the bridge, made her point (s) in a very special way. You can watch it in this short clip.
RIGHEIMER MELTED DOWN
Many of the speakers were critical of the council and suspicious of their motives in meeting with county officials. It has been rumored that Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was at the meeting in which Newport Beach councilman Steve Rosansky met with Supervisor John Moorlach to request his help in securing a 19th Street Bridge. He acknowledged being at that meeting during the discussion. Righeimer, during his campaign for council, told a group of folks at a candidate forum that he was in favor of the bridge. At the end of this discussion, before the council voted 5-0 to approve the resolution, Righeimer had a minor meltdown, apparently because of the criticism he's been getting on this and other issues. You can watch the short video below.
PENSION ISSUES PASSED, BUT...
The council approved the two pension-related issues, the 2%@60 program for new hires in the so-called "miscellaneous employees" group - basically the non-management, non-safety employees, and the voluntary contributions by certain Executive employees, but not without some distressing discussion.
RIGHEIMER ACCUSED ROEDER OF FEATHERING HIS OWN NEST
Righeimer pointed his cross-hairs directly at former City Manager Allan Roeder as he criticized the pension adjustments that were negotiated in 2008 as part of the City's effort to weather the storm of the nationwide financial collapse. He referred to benefits that were "handed out to people", and criticized the council at the time of not knowing what they were approving. He basically accused Roeder of feathering his own retirement nest - an allegation later also leveled by non-elected councilman Steve Mensinger during council member comments. Not only is that despicable, but it's also ironic, since Righeimer had earlier griped about speakers before them "not knowing what they're talking about". Well, those guys were not involved at that time and don't know what they are talking about. It really torques my jaws when those two, a carpetbagging political opportunist and his unemployed bully sidekick, criticize a man who devoted his entire working life to this city - three dozen years - and was renowned as the best city manager in the county - at least. They've demonstrated to me that they certainly do not have the strength of character necessary to effectively represent this city. They make me want to puke!
It was absolutely no surprise that the council rejected Wendy Leece's request for staff time to review and recommend a policy/ordinance guiding the use of electronic communications devices while council members are on the dais. This issue arose from Mensinger's penchant for communicating via cell phone or, now Ipad, with other members of the council or outsiders during deliberations on the dais. Even if you discard Mensinger's egregious behavior, it's important to consider this issue because the council is moving forward toward having a paperless agenda - perhaps providing electronic tablets to each of them with which they would access the staff reports. A policy should be in place to define proper use of those devices during council meetings. One of the sad ironies of this segment was that Righeimer was on his cell phone, apparently texting someone or reading emails, while Leece was making her pitch. Following a discussion she made a motion and there was no second to it, so the issue died.
FISH FRY TO BE SCALED-DOWN?
During her comments segment Leece asked Hatch about the Fish Fry. A resident had brought the question up in Public Comments. Hatch told us that the City had been meeting with representatives of the Lions Club to try to find an alternate site. The current site, Lions Park, won't work because the recently-renovated Luke Davis Field is no longer available for the carnival rides. Fairview Park was mentioned as a possible alternative. However, hot off the presses, representatives of the Lions Club met today with City officials, including Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce, and advised them that it is their hope to produce a scaled-down Fish Fry this year at Lions Park - an event without the carnival rides. It is hoped that this event - the 65th - will still attract many residents. I guess we'll find out.