Polarized Council Rejects Fairview Rehearing
Last night, as I sat in the Costa Mesa City Council chambers to observe my first council meeting since my much-needed vacation, I knew there would likely be some strained moments because of the subject of the only item on the agenda besides a couple presentations and the Consent Calendar.
When the meeting began following a two-hour Closed Session during which labor negotiations and a law suit were discussed it seemed to me that the council was particularly somber. That feeling was borne-out by Mayor Jim Righeimer's adversarial, confrontational attitude that permeated the entire meeting.
HOPING FOR COLLEGIALITY
I hoped, as Reverend Tim McCalmont of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant gave the very inspirational invocation, that the folks on the dais would hear it, listen to it and heed the message delivered. Take two and a half minutes to watch that brief presentation:
Sadly, it appeared that the only people in the room who heard and heeded that message were members of the public who rose to speak to the council. Righeimer certainly did not. Throughout the evening he treated speaker after speaker. Resident Cindy Brenneman, a long time community activist, actually called him out on it from the speaker's podium.
CONSENT CALENDAR PASSED
Although Righeimer played games with the schedule, splitting the Consent Calendar into two segments, all items on it were passed with virtually no discussion. Only resident Beth Refakes addressed an item separately - #12, the purchase of 435 new computers. It passed on a 5-0 vote after having been the subject of rancorous discussion the last time it appeared before the council.
THE REHEARING REQUEST
The major issue of the evening, of course, was councilwoman Sandra Genis' request for a re-hearing of the much-discussed Fairview Park Enhancement Project. You can read Bradley Zint's excellent coverage of this issue in the Daily Pilot HERE and Antonie Boessenkool's coverage in the Orange County Register, HERE, if you can get behind the paywall. You can also watch the streaming video of the meeting HERE. After Righeimer reminded everyone, several times, that the issue at hand was NEW, RELEVANT information that would affect a decision on a possible re-hearing at a future date, NOT a discussion of the value of Fairview Park, the sanctity of the Native American artifacts that might be there or whether their should be playing fields in the park.
Despite that admonition, a few of the two dozen folks who rose to speak strayed from the assigned path and were either cut off by Righeimer or required to get back on the proper subject.
For ninety minutes speaker after speaker stepped up, including many members of American Indian tribes, to urge a re-hearing. Genis pointed out several areas that included new information and several speakers reinforced her views with their own list of new issues. However, when Righeimer used the word "relevant" I knew the request was doomed. Relevance is in the eye of the beholder and, in this case, Righeimer was the only "beholder" that counted. He had Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan's votes from the outset.
RIGHEIMER MOVES TO DENY...
At the end Righeimer made a motion to deny the request for a re-hearing which was seconded by Gary Monahan. Take a couple moments to watch what happened at that point in the meeting.
I have watched council proceedings for a long time and I've NEVER seen Sandra Genis so angry. The vote was taken on Genis' substitute motion and it, predictably, failed, 3-2 - the men voting against it. Righeimer then called for the original motion - to reject the request - and it passed on a similar vote.
NOT MANY SMILING FACES
The crowd was very angry and raucous as it immediately left the auditorium, shouting out things like "See you in court".
GENIS PASSED THE TEST...
Clearly, last night demonstrated the continuing divide between the men and women on the dais. Genis, an experienced council member and former mayor with professional expertise in the governmental nuance of issues exactly like the Fairview Park issue, presented point after point that met the "newness" test and, in the view of many in the auditorium, also met the "relevance" test. Righeimer wasn't buying it because he didn't have to - he had the votes and knew it.
THE LITTLE KING
The only good thing that may have come out of this debacle was that the public, once again, had a chance to see the real Jim Righeimer in action - the man who would be king, and acts like it. '
In my opinion, the only way to bring harmony and stability back to our city is to defeat him at the polls next November. His performance last night may have been a good first step toward that goal. Every time he arrogantly disrespects another new segment of the community he loses votes. It's certainly well past time to send him packing.