Righeimer Meets, Listens on Rehab Homes
For the second Thursday evening in a row Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer met with Eastside residents in one of his "Meet the Mayor" gatherings to hear what they had to say and attempt to provide encouragement and answers.
FIVE DOZEN RESIDENTS
The most recent meeting, held on the front lawn at the home of Carrie Renfro on the corner of Orange Avenue and Buoy Street, found more than sixty (60) residents and other interested parties gathered to tell Righeimer of their concerns about the proliferation of rehabilitation homes in the neighborhood and to hear him speak of the City's strategy for managing the problem.
MANY SPOKE OUT
About a third of those present spoke out, expressing their concerns. For the most part they went away encouraged, but unfulfilled. I'm not going to attempt to present you with a word-for-word account of the hour or so Righeimer spent with a very effective question and answer event, but I'll give you my take on it. You can read Bradley Zint's coverage of the event in the Daily Pilot, HERE.
LARGE STAFF/OFFICIALS PRESENCE
In addition to Righeimer, the meeting was also attended by Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick, Planning Commissioner Tim Sesler, Assistant CEO Rick Francis, Communication Director Bill Lobdell, Head of Code Enforcement Willa Bowens-Killeen, Code Enforcement Officer Mike Tucker (his responsibilities include rehab homes), City Inspector Randy Buck and Costa Mesa Police Sergeants Matt Grimmond and Vic Bakkila.
WIDE RANGE OF CONCERNS
More than two dozen residents spoke with concerns ranging from fear for their safety because of the influx of rehab home residents concentrated in their neighborhood; health issues caused by plumes of cigarette smoke; noise and foul language emanating from the homes; safety of their children; crowds of as many as 25 men just wandering the neighborhood; large group meetings at the homes; thefts from vehicles; vandalism and more.
"WHAT WILL YOU DO?"
Most wanted to know what the City could, and will, do about these issues. Righeimer explained, in a nutshell, that the City's options are limited by the restrictions placed by state and federal regulations, but that we, the city, are working on solutions.
COSTA MESA LEADS THE COUNTY IN REHAB HOMES!
He explained that all group homes must be treated uniformly or we could be accused of discrimination. He told the crowd that right now Costa Mesa has 104 rehab homes, which represents 23% of the total in Orange County, and that 50 of those are state licensed. When asked, he confirmed that the number does NOT include group homes for the elderly.
NEED MORE TOOLS
He explained that the city needs more tools to combat the problem and that a revised Nuisance Ordinance is on the way - it may be presented to the council at the meeting on September 3rd. Some will recall that an earlier cut at a Nuisance Ordinance was pulled off the table for modification.
DID HE REALLY SAY THAT?
He also said we need regulations in place regarding the configuration of group homes so city staff can enforce the rules. When a resident asked him if we had the staff necessary to enforce the new ordinance and regulations Righeimer said, "We will add whatever staff it takes - you can count on it!" This, if true, marks a very significant shift in his views as practiced since he took a seat on the council a couple years ago. During that time he has refused to budge on requests to increase public safety staff to meet the barest of minimal standards as recommended by consultants and prior chiefs of police. We can only hope this is not another one of his "I didn't really mean it" moments - like when he recent told the audience in a council meeting that the charter committee would decide whether we need a charter or not. It turns out that he didn't mean that - he just blurted it out.
GIVING HIM CREDIT
I give Righeimer credit for putting this meeting together so quickly, responding to an issue clearly very important to many Eastside residents, but the broader community as well. He came prepared to listen to complaints and concerns knowing that he didn't have solutions to offer, yet. He referred interested parties to visit the City web site to express concerns, or to call him directly on his cell phone - one of his lovely daughters passed out his business cards to members of the audience. He also referred us to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on the City web site, HERE.
HE JUST COULDN'T RESIST!
He was on a roll at the meeting, mixing light banter with sincere concern and attentive listening. He managed to hold it together - except for one incident, when he reverted to type. As he asked the audience to attend council meetings and ask questions and express their concerns, he referred to folks who speak regularly at the meetings - he described them as "nice people" - but told the crowd that they, the council, don't hear enough from other members of the community. He said those "nice people", for example, include some who support the employee groups who stand and complain about high legal fees after they sued the city which caused the fees to increase. He conveniently, again, forgot to mention that it was the malfeasance of the council - and his leadership specifically - when they neglected to follow their own rules that caused the employee group to sue the city to protect their rights. Nobody called him on that, so the crowd left assuming he was right. Too bad. And he hasn't even officially declared his run for re-election yet, either.
THANKS TO ALL
HERE, except the Consent Calendar. Plenty of time for Public Comments...
GENERAL PLAN UPDATE MEETING
Before I forget, one person asked when the next General Plan Update meeting was scheduled. It's August 21st at 6:00 p.m. in the Emergency Operations Center adjacent to the Police Department headquarters building at 99 Fair Drive. That was an excellent question because these kind of issues should be considered in the General Plan update. Mark your calendars and bring your questions in three weeks.