Raucous Meeting Accomplishes Little
LONG AND MEMORABLE
Last night the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting at the Neighborhood Community Center was one for the ages. You can read the posted agenda HERE to follow along. Because of the multiple presentations planned, as well as what looked like a pretty packed agenda, I estimated there was no chance for the committee to wrap up their business in the 90 minutes scheduled. In fact, it took more than double that time, finishing just after 9:15 p.m.
COSTA MESA BRIEF ON THE SCENE
AN ATTENTIVE CROWD
And, Barry and I were joined by more than 100 attendees last night, clearly a record for this committee. It was an interested crowd, which I can only describe as favoring keeping Fairview Park as it is - with no playing fields. That's not a guess - it was easy to measure the sentiment of the crowd when they responded to member Anna Vrska's presentation, which I'll discuss now.
VEERING OFF COURSE
Ms. Vrska has been a thorn in the side of some of the committee members almost from the day it was formed. She's young, articulate, very smart and works hard at gathering facts before making decisions. Her presentation was supposed to be about Youth Sports Data, and she did briefly touch on that subject, but only to admit that the City was unable to provide her with sufficient historical data because of software and database changes made it impossible to retrieve much historical data.
HOW TO NOT WIN FRIENDS...
CART BEFORE THE HORSE
Costa Mesa Brief.
"FRIENDS OF STEVE"
The biggest bombshell she dropped, though, was her claim that there may be bias in the composition of the committee - that she was the only woman and many of the men on the committee were friends with Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger - who just happened to be sitting very near her. As I looked around I could see faces turning red among certain of those committee members. She also quoted a fairly recent column by Daily Pilot columnist Jeffrey Harlan, which likely also got some of the members blood boiling. And then she was finished and the crowd gave her long, long applause. That was how I measured the sentiment of the crowd. More fun was to follow later, though.
Then came Dr. Henry Koerper, a archaeologist with more than 30 years teaching the subject at Cypress College. He, too, had done significant work in Fairview Park for decades and provided us with more fascinating history of the region.
THE CONSULTANT'S ROLE
Then, at just after 7:00 p.m., came SRS Project Manager Connie "Destiny" Colocho, who provided us with a brief PowerPoint presentation of their plans, shown on the five slides that follow here.
ANOTHER LONG NIGHT AHEAD
By now it was 8:00, a half hour past the scheduled stop time and they were nowhere close to a stopping point. And, this is where the real fun began. This was the opportunity for committee members to ask questions of the earlier presenters, and some did so with pent up anger.
INVOKING DR. KING? REALLY?
Vice Chair Steve Smith was first up, taking exception to some of Vrska's earlier comments and, in response to her claim of gender bias, quoted Dr. Martin Luther King's statement about the content of a man's character, not the color of his skin. I thought that was peculiar, but he was angry. He asked her why she chose to investigate the field use when there are many other issues with the park. She responded that it seemed to be the way the committee was heading so she wanted facts. She said the information the committee had wasn't sufficient to make good decisions and, in response to his statement about the demographics on the committee, she provided statistics that demonstrated that women are severely under-represented on most city committees.
Brett Eckles challenged some of her numbers and she admitted, based on subsequent conversations, that she needs more information. She tried to apologize to John Rubright of AYSO 120 for not contacting him personally during her canvass of youth sports organizations.
ANGRY DENIAL, KINDA
Dennis Popp, the "other" gray-haired, portly blogger in town, condescendingly challenged her statement that the committee was made up of friends of the mayor pro tem, to which Vrska asked, "Am I wrong?" Popp said he would be proud to be a friend of the mayor pro tem. He didn't answer the question. They went back and forth and she told him she wasn't saying he was a puppet, but that the committee was compose mainly of like-minded people and, except for her, all men.
NO HABLA, LEE
Lee Ramos demonstrated his disdain for her claims of the demographic deficiency of the committee by addressing her angrily in Spanish.
When it was Vrska's turn to question presenters she asked Dr. Koerper if the fact that he had originally been the one to delineate the boundaries of one of the Native American sites at Fairview Park wasn't a conflict of interest since he would be assigned the job of basically confirming his own findings? After some discussion the answer was no.
Chairman Richard Mehren asked the consultants from SRS if the "capping" - the method of covering sensitive artifact locations with layers of dirt and sand to protect them - wouldn't adversely affect the water flow to and from the vernal pools nearby. After some discussion Director of Public Works Ernesto Munoz clarified that SRS would not be working in that area.
SUMMERHILL REIGNS HER IN
Vrska then, again, tried to explain the problems with the hiring of the consultants and attorney Yolanda Summerhill pulled her up short, telling her that the legal department had reviewed the process by which SRS was chosen and it passed all the checks necessary.
MEHREN'S STRONG STATEMENT
At this point Mehren, who has kept a fairly low profile as Chairman of this group, made a statement to the group in which he criticized the City for it's poor management of Fairview Park, citing the decomposed granite trail, a recent track meet, parking on protected areas by visitors to an event at Jim Scott Stadium and more. He cited the current involvement of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and state officials.
Following that the major agenda item - discussing which kind of new features might be appropriate for the Northwest quadrant of the park - was a disaster. Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia tried to winnow down the 35 suggestions created in July, listed below, to determine which definitely would NOT be appropriate for that quadrant. Mehren then asked how many had actually walked that part of the park, stating that they couldn't make an informed decision if they had not walked it. That threw the entire discussion into a tizzy and the result was that they put it off until their December meeting.
real dunderheads who made stupid decisions", and made a semi-tasteless joke about them being mad when he only had to use the toilet infrequently. Funny how much you can learn about people if you just let them talk...
MENSINGER CONTRADICTS VRSKA
that's not accurate!", and followed up by saying she had been welcomed and treated with respect. I found myself wondering how Mensinger knew how Vrska felt at those meetings.
RON LETS IT RIP!
You're probably the least knowledgable person about the city on this committee.", as if that had anything to do with the issues at hand. You could practically see steam coming from his ears. He complained about her statistics, so she offered him her pile of papers and told him he could check her numbers.
THREE HOURS, NO PROGRESS
ONE MORE MEETING THIS YEAR
The next meeting of this committee will be on December 4th and, as of this time, they won't meet again until February since the first Wednesday of January is the 1st.
And, the final shoe to drop in this very strange evening was that Dr. Mehren - who has served as Chairman on this committee and on the previous version for two decades - was reamed by Mensinger and some of his "friends" at the end of the meeting. Pathetic!