Public Hearing Without Listening
Once again the Costa Mesa City Council held a Public Hearing on Jim Righeimer's Charter scheme Monday night and, despite dozens of speakers offering suggestions for changes, the council demonstrated that "hearing" is not "listening".
FOUR HOURS AND A NEAR RIOT
The meeting, which ran more than four hours if you include the break that was taken right around 8:00 when a near-riot broke out, turned out about as I expected it would. The council took comments from 41 people - nearly 80% of which spoke against the Charter - haggled among themselves about which phrases would be added or deleted, stiff-armed Wendy Leece at virtually every turn and adjourned the meeting shortly before 11:15 with Jim Righeimer's Charter virtually intact. All that remains now is for them to vote to place it on the June ballot at their meeting on March 6th.
AT LEAST SLOW DOWN
Last night speaker after speaker rose to either oppose Jim Righeimer's Charter flat out or to request the council to slow the process down and place the Charter on the November ballot instead of jamming it down our throats. At one point, during his response to that suggestion, Righeimer told the audience that if the Charter failed at the June election it would simply be placed on the November ballot. So, not only is he willing to spend between $97,500 and $123,500 to place it on the June ballot, but he's willing to virtually double-down and spend another $78,500 to $97,500 in November. Of course, it doesn't surprise me that he's willing to spend taxpayer's money like that - he and his pals on the council are spending legal dollars like the proverbial drunken sailor. It won't surprise me at all if the total legal fees this fiscal year top $2 million so far. We budgeted $800,000.
NO MAILER YET
Several speakers reported that they had either NOT received the pro-Charter mailer yet, or received it late Saturday, providing precious little time to become familiar with the issue. According to CEO Tom Hatch, that document was produced by city staff and cost $9700, including mailing. It apparently was sent to every household that receives the quarterly Recreation Report. And, we managed to kill a small forest with the 134 pages of staff report and related documents for the 175+ members of the public who attended the meeting.
PRE-ARRANGED EXTENDED SPEECH
Perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting was the presentation by a fellow named Kevin Dayton, who told us he represented the Dayton Public Policy Institute. This outfit, according to Dayton after he was jeered away from the speaker's podium, is brand new - he had no web site nor business cards - and is apparently just him. You can read Joe Serna's account in the Daily Pilot, HERE. Before he began speaking it was clear that he had pre-arranged for an extended stay at the podium, acknowledged by Righeimer, who was running the show because Mayor Gary Monahan was, again absent.
YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME?
As he went on and on, providing "guidance" to the City Council - some of which they eventually folded into their modifications of the current draft of Jim Righeimer's Charter. Eventually, at about the seven minute mark, many members of the audience began to get restless and started to call out "Three Minutes!" and other less flattering comments. Apparently Dayton has a history with some of the union members in the audience. Eventually, at the nine minute mark, things got raucous and Righeimer called for a short break and Dayton exclaimed "Fascism, fascism, fascism" as he left the podium. As he approached his seat - and the police officers converged on his location to maintain order - Dayton spread his arms out wide in a taunting gesture, a "You want a piece of me?" posture, to those several dozen burly, vocal members of the audience who continued to jeer him. I've never seen this kind of activity at council meetings in the past, and, in my opinion, Righeimer precipitated it by allowing Dayton to speak so long, antagonizing an already-hostile audience.
NO SUBSTANTIVE CHANGES
I knew we wouldn't see any substantive changes to Jim Righeimer's Charter last night, but I was surprised that we would get such a clear and obvious example of what life will be like in Costa Mesa if the Charter passes in June. Righeimer ran the meeting with his typical disregard for the rules. His allowance of nearly 10 minutes of speaking time for Dayton was only one example. He tired very quickly of Wendy Leece's attempts to get segments deleted and/or added. He and his cohorts, Eric Bever and Steve Mensinger, just kept on sniping at her and failed to provide a second to her motions. She did succeed in having the Preamble modified, installing segments plucked from Huntington Beach's charter and inserting them in the draft, but only after the intervention of resident Perry Valantine, who had recommended the changes in the first place.
POSTERIOR SMOOCHING BY JIMMY FITZY
A predictable, and pathetic, segment of the meeting last night was when Planning Commissioner and Righeimer/Mensinger lap dog, Jim Fitzpatrick, stepped up to the speaker's podium early-on and heaped praise on the council for their bravery and foresight. The crowd tittered and then grumbled as his shameless pandering continued. When he finally finished I felt like someone should offer him a tissue to wipe that brown stuff off his nose.
TERRY KOKEN CROONS AGAIN
All was not doom and gloom, though. Frequent speaker Terry Koken presented his views to the council in the form of another little ditty that he composed. While he will never be mistaken for Tony Bennett, what he lacks in vocalization skills he more than makes up for in moxey
NEXT STOP, THE MARCH 6TH VOTE
So, now we wait three weeks, until the March 6th council meeting, at which time they will almost certainly vote to place Jim Righeimer's Charter on the ballot. Then the battle begins. There is already very significant organized opposition to this scheme. The group Costa Mesans For Responsible Government is already mobilized and promises to produce a cadre of activists to go door-to-door to inform the public about this disaster. It's going to be a very interesting spring.
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
On a happier note, we here at A Bubbling Cauldron want to wish all you lovers out there a very Happy Valentine's Day. Here's a little something from our pal, Rod Stewart, to help get you in the mood: