Progress and Exasperation Mark Fairview Committee Meeting
The meeting of the Costa Mesa Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee Wednesday evening was marked by some good progress and, at the end, some exasperation on the part of a few members of the committee..... First, the progress.
ACTIVE COMMUNITY INTEREST
As I wrote in an earlier post, progress sometimes comes slowly with this group because of the nature of the task. Wednesday night things moved a little more briskly, although not without some minor glitches. All committee members, staff and liaison personnel were in attendance for the first time in many meetings. At the peak there were 24 members of the public in attendance and several of those spoke on the issues. Among those were Parks and Recreation Commissioners - Vice Chair Kim Pederson and member Bob Graham - coaches and at least one council member - Sandra Genis - who actively participated in the discussion of issues as they came up.
THREE NEW ISSUES
As mentioned earlier, the staff report, HERE, included three items listed under New Business that were anomalies to the normal, established process they've been following. Those items were:
- BMX Concept (Southeast Quadrant)
- Pickleball Concept (Northeast Quadrant)
- Naming of the Ponds after the Great Lakes
Then came a brief discussion of the possibility of a BMX bike facility in the park. There is already a de facto "facility" in Talbert Park.
Finally, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Graham stepped up and gave a PowerPoint presentation on why the new ponds in the Northwest Quadrant should be named, not numbered as is presently the case. He compared them to the Great Lakes and gave a long, long, long presentation on it.
Public comments were taken on all the items simultaneously - very cumbersome.
ALL FAILED TO MOVE FORWARD
Eventually, when the votes were taken, all three of those items failed to gain support to move forward in the process.
THE CLOCK WAS TICKING
It was now 7:05 p.m. - half way through the allotted time - and they were just beginning the normal agenda of eight (8) items to be discussed for possible inclusion in the Northeast Quadrant.
Item #1, Dry Land Wildlife Viewing Area evoked a little discussion among the committee members and 6 members of the public spoke on it. After all was said and done it died for lack of a second and will no longer be considered for that segment of the park.
Member Brett Eckles moved to combine #2, Soccer/Football Fields, and #4, Multi-use Athletic Fields, for the purpose of discussion and consideration. He indicated that he felt such uses in that quadrant of the park were inappropriate. Four members of the public agreed with him. There was no motion on these items so they will also not move forward.
Item #3, planting a Redwood Forest in that quadrant also gained no support from the committee or the audience. Five members of the public spoke on this one. It died for lack of a motion.
Items #5, Roller Hockey Surface and #7, Basketball/Handball Courts, were also combined for discussion. They also died for lack of a motion.
Item #6, the installation of a Two-tiered Building that includes an Interpretive Center and Terrace Viewing Deck. The discussions on this one were brief, too. It died for lack of a motion.
At that point Eckles moved to extend beyond the 8:00 p.m. stop time to finish the second group of 8 items on the agenda, but failed to receive a second to his motion.
The final item discussed was #8, Trail Exercise Stations. Member Dennis Popp said he suggested this function for another quadrant but didn't think it was appropriate for this one. It died for lack of a motion.
EIGHT UP, EIGHT DOWN
So, there you have it... eight items up, NONE moved forward. Actually, make that eleven (11) when you consider the three items under New Business. The committee will consider the remaining eight items at the meeting on July 2nd.
Please don't think the committee didn't work hard on these items... they did. And, there was lively discussion from the audience on most of them, too. All the conversations were civil and, in many cases, light-hearted.
THE CLOSING DIATRIBES
Which brings me to the final few moments. As the Chairman, Dr. Richard Mehren, went around the table for each member to make their closing comments most chose not to say anything more. However, when it came to Vice Chair Steve Smith he clearly had a burr under his blanket. He angrily said he was a friend of Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger but that friendship did NOT drive any of his decisions on the committee. He said he was "tired of accusations of being a 'Friend of Steve'". It seemed like a curious outburst - particularly when you consider his vocal participation on the issues before the committee has been minimal over all these months. Yes, he voted on each item, but seldom did he engage in discussions, so it was hard to determine why he voted the way he did. I glanced around the room and saw many surprised expressions on the audience members faces.
POPP POPS OFF
Then member Dennis Popp took the baton from Smith and raised the rhetoric and, among other things, called the allegations of committee members as having a pre-determined agenda "egregious behavior". He was so angry that the combination of his white hair and his red neck reminded me of a pimple ready to pop(p). Keep in mind that just a few minutes earlier he paused the proceedings to pontificate to the members of the audience that "there are no television cameras here" - implying they were playing to an audience, not the issues. That comment was way, way out of line. The discourse had been civil, but spirited, to that point. No nasty remarks, no songs sung, no personal, pointed criticisms - just respectful discussion of the issues.
ET TU, LEE?
Then, mild-mannered Lee Ramos - city council candidate for whom Popp is the campaign manager - spoke up and agreed with Smith and thanked him from bringing the issue up. He criticized members of the audience for saying things like, "the citizens feel this way" - I don't recall that phrase being said - and accused them of pretending to speak for all Costa Mesa citizens. He told the audience that, "if you're the leaders, bring them with you. I want to hear from them!" It was a curious outburst from a normally-quiet guy - it seemed just a little contrived.
THE MENSINGER SMIRK
Through this all Mensinger sat across from them with his trademark perpetual bemused smirk on his face.
I sat there, dumbfounded. Every speaker that night was courteous, addressed specific issues, were generally brief and on-point. One speaker frequently read to the committee from the current Fairview Park Master Plan to remind them of the current status of the park as codified in that Master Plan. Others shared views, so kept their comments brief to avoid unnecessary redundancy. Most of the speakers tilted toward keeping the park exactly as it is right now. And, in this particular Quadrant - the Northeast Quadrant - that obviously is a view shared by the committee, because that's how they've voted on the first eight issues considered.
HERE'S HOW IT LOOKS TO ME
Since Smith's outburst had not been provoked by anything that happened last night, I'll tell you how this looks to me. It looks like just one more step in the plan to quash criticism by members of the public. Mayor Jim Righeimer has laid that ground work. Members of his posse have perpetuated and amplified it through acts of intimidation of members of the public. This looks like another step in that direction.
SOMETHING TO CONTEMPLATE...
It certainly was a peculiar few moments. I saw a side of Ramos previously hidden and it will certainly be food for thought - and blog entries - as the campaign season moves along.
There was a brief discussion about the meeting on July 2nd, with some concern expressed about having a quorum available because of the Independence Day holiday. Mehren polled the members and it appeared that there would, indeed, be enough members available to hold the meeting that day. An interesting sidebar. When Popp was polled his reply was, "I'm an ex-cop so I never go out of town on holidays." Funny, I don't recall seeing a police background in the biographical summaries provided for his committee participation. We know he's been a nurse and says he's had significant rank in the military service of our country. However, now that I think about it, he does kind of have the countenance of one of those stereotypical good-old-boy southern rural cops - all puff and bluster - a blowhard, impressed with himself and expecting you to be, too. Should have guessed.
WILL CIVILITY RETURN?
It will be interesting to see if civility returns to this group on July 2nd. And, it will be interesting to see if they continue to hold the members of the public, who take time from their busy lives to participate in these important discussions, in such disdain in the future.