Eastside Candidate Forum A Success
The final Costa Mesa city council candidate forum held Thursday night at the Neighborhood Community Center was a big success. More than 150 people attended for this final chance to see and hear those folks from whom they will select three to fill open council seats on November 6th.
KUDOS TO THE EASTSIDERS
Once again, my friends in the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group did themselves proud. President Jeff McConville kicked things off, then passed the baton to Marnie Primmer, again the moderator for the evening. She conducted the proceedings crisply, kept the candidates on schedule and actually managed to complete the questions and answer portion exactly on schedule. That was an amazing feat when you consider that she asked the candidates 14 questions and they were given one or two minutes to answer each one, depending on the complexity of the question. Not all candidates answered every question.
A GOOD FORMAT
Candidates Steve Mensinger, John Stephens, Al Melone, Sandy Genis, Colin McCarthy, Harold Weitzberg and Gary Monahan were given the opportunity to make opening statements, then fielded questions tossed to them in a random fashion. They were also given two minutes to wrap up. There was no time provided for candidates to rebut responses by others, although some sniping did take place. Generally, though, the candidates conducted themselves with courtesy and respect for the others. Read Bradley Zint's coverage in the Daily Pilot HERE.
Without going into great detail, questions on the following subjects were asked: (respondents listed below each)
Banning Ranch and the development agreement
(Melone, Genis, Mensinger)
The Charter proposal
Variances and development density
(Melone, Weitzberg, McCarthy)
(Mensinger, McCarthy, Genis)
Appointment to committees and commissions
(Stephens, Genis, Monahan)
The General Plan
(Melone, Monahan, Stephens)
Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN)
John Wayne Airport Expansion
(Melone, McCarthy, Stephens)
Business License Fees
Commercial Development vs. Residential rights
Police staffing and safety
(Melone, Weitzberg, Monahan)
Costa Mesa's Image and how to repair it
BROAD RANGE OF IMPORTANT ISSUES
As you can see, there were questions that should be of interest to every resident, regardless where they live in the city, and a few that might have greater significance to those of us who actually live on the Eastside of Costa Mesa - specifically, the John Wayne Airport Expansion and Recovery Homes.
The crowd was respectful, attentive and enthusiastic, but was smaller and not as raucous as the crowd at the recent Feet To The Fire Charter debate. Quite frankly, I suspect the folks who attended the forum last night learned some new information about the candidates as they handled the questions and introduced themselves. It was my impression that most who attended thought it went well. In my opinion, this forum was the best of the bunch again. The hosts clearly spent a lot of times crafting the questions and working on the timing of the evening.
MELONE IN OVER HIS HEAD
In my opinion, and acknowledging my own bias, I think each of the candidates except Al Melone came prepared to answer most of the questions. Mr. Melone clearly has no clue about most important issues facing the city, nor does he have any answers for them. While I understand that it was proper for him to be invited to attend, his presence took up valuable time from the other serious, and prepared, candidates.
CHALLENGERS LOOKED GOOD
Of the rest, I think Genis, Stephens and Weitzberg came off as being quite well-prepared. Genis demonstrated her wealth of knowledge and experience about how city government works, including significant detail on some of the more important issues. Stephens clearly had done his homework, too, because many of his answers were among the best. Weitzberg was very comfortable on the dais, fielded the questions without hesitation and offered some creative solutions to the problems posed.
3M'S LAGGED BEHIND
Monahan handled the questions the way you'd expect a man who had been on the council for nearly two decades to do. He dodged any hint of responsibility for the problems "created by previous councils" as described by Mensinger at one time during the forum. He sniped at newcomers, which was inappropriate and off-putting. Mensinger came across as an affable guy with time management problems. for example, he was tossed the question about COIN - which he acknowledged was a "softball" - then fumbled it and never did complete his explanation in the time allotted. McCarthy has still not learned that body language on the dais means a lot. When he was not actually participating in an answer he slouched and smirked at the answers of others. Nothing the candidates said or did changed my previous opinions of them, nor will they affect the way I'll be casting my votes.
REPLAY SCHEDULE PENDING
While not televised live, this forum will join the previous others in the rotation on CMTV, Channel 24 (Time Warner Cable) and Channel 99 (ATT U-verse) beginning Tuesday, October 23rd at 7:30 p.m. and October 24th at 5:30 p.m. It will play at least once a day from that date through November 6th, election day. It will also be available for viewing on streaming video at the city web site beginning Wednesday, October 24th. As soon as the actual schedules are available I'll post a separate entry with the times and dates that each of the forums will be shown through November 6th and will include links for the streaming video for each.
BOORISH BULLYING BEHAVIOR
I cannot close without reporting on something that happened after the forum program had been completed and the crowd was filing out. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer - in a display of inappropriate rudeness normally only seen on elementary school playgrounds - made his way to the front of the room with one of his daughters in tow, found McConville and Primmer, who had been fielding congratulations from others, and "read them the riot act"! He tore into them for what he termed "biased questions" - and just went on and on - perhaps five minutes of vitriol. I watched this drama unfold. Later he sought out other members of the organizing team and berated them similarly. Mensinger and his lapdog, Jim Fitzpatrick, also joined the chorus in that completely unacceptable belligerent behavior. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior has become part of Righeimer's arsenal of attack tools and certainly demonstrates a certain level of desperation at this late date in the campaign. It's just one more demonstration of how civility has been virtually eliminated from city government activities since this crew took over. And they are asking you to perpetuate it....
TWO WEEKS OF MAYHEM AHEAD
So, now we have just over two weeks before the election during which you can expect your mail boxes to be jammed with campaign materials that contain falsehoods, misleading statements and flat-out lies. And, you'll be seeing opposing views in the letters to the editor and commentaries in our local print media as they jockey to get the last word in before Election Day. It's a real shame...