Freedom Of Speech, The Charter And More
The Costa Mesa City Council had a long, busy night Tuesday/Wednesday as the meeting stretched until 12:30 a.m. Not much happened that wasn't anticipated, but it took a long time to get there. You can read the agenda for the meeting HERE. I'll give you the shortest version I can.
QUICK WORK OF CONSENT CALENDAR
Nobody pulled anything from the Consent Calendar, so it was passed on a 5-0 vote. (Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger abstained from voting on Item #4, the Salary Resolutions for the Costa Mesa Police Association and the Costa Mesa Police Management Association.
COYOTES, KUDOS, DEVELOPMENT AND MORE
Nine residents spoke during Public Comments. Among those were RoyEllen Duffield, who told us of a harrowing experience with coyotes in her neighborhood recently, and the fact that the police couldn't help her. Al Melone spoke, again, on the Small Dog Park and coyotes, too. Beth Refakes congratulated CMTV's Dane Bora and Brad Long for a recent award and complained about the duration of fireworks. Dominic DeBona (sp?) complained about current developments and the traffic it will bring, plus the Banning Ranch project and its traffic. Teresa Drain told us about an unpleasant event that occurred during the 60th Anniversary Celebration and suggested that an independent financial audit is necessary.
During Council Member comments Gary Monahan also addressed the fireworks issue and coyotes, too, citing the fact that they are all over the city and the PD can't do anything about them. Mensinger expressed gratitude for the fireworks indicating that it generated about $400,000 for youth groups. Sandra Genis spoke on the Bark Park, then acknowledged the anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (today) and read from President Lynden Johnson's speech about it. Wendy Leece praised Bora and Long and upcoming events. She expressed concern for the mounting legal fees and mentioned that Monahan had the City Attorney prepare an ordinance for Medical Marijuana dispensaries in the city without any discussion by the council. Monahan told us he did that because there are two pending petitions to place Medical Marijuana on the November ballot and he wanted an ordinance in place should either qualify and pass.
HATCH AND SHELTON
During his segment CEO Tom Hatch told us that the old Print Shop on the first floor of City Hall will be evaluated for possible use as a community meeting room and that the architect being used for other work at City Hall will be retained to do that work, too. He said the Public Safety staff is geared up for July 4th and told folks with coyote issues to call the non-emergency number at the CMPD. As part of his segment Kelly Shelton, his Executive Assistant, gave us an rundown on the changes at the Fairgrounds this year. The Fair begins in a little over a week.
HARBOR SOARING SOCIETY RENEWAL
New Business #1, the renewal of the agreement with the Harbor Soaring Society went smoothly. After some conversation that might have required the members of the HSS to police non-member fliers, that idea was abandoned. The staff proposal was for a 5-year renewal, but Mensinger moved for a 1-year renewal and re-assess it at that time. Righeimer suggested the 5-years and a look at the loose ends of the process after a year. That passed, 5-0.
FIELD USE AND MATT LEINART
Next up was New Business #2, the new Field Use and Allocation program. After a short conversation and no public comments it was passed as recommended with the exception that the Matt Leinart Flag Football program - which had officially requested to be given Group 3 status - was given a "special circumstances" designation for a year to see if the program grows with Costa Mesa residents.
The discussion of New Business #3, the proposed security cameras at various venues generated lots of conversation. Nine residents spoke on the issue. Most of them felt the control and review of the images captured by the cameras should fall under the Police Department, not the Information Technology Department. Among those, Robin Leffler said she understood the need in some of the areas, but for them to be used 24/7 in places like Fairview Park and the Joann Street Bike Path "creeped her out" and it smacked of "Big Brotherism". Greg Ridge was 100% against the cameras, described them as "Orwellian" and it would make things like racial profiling probable.
NEED A POLICY BEFORE IMPLEMENTATION
During the discussion among the council members, concern was expressed by Genis that there was no policy for the management of this kind of a system and Leece was reluctant to support it because there was no data presented that showed the cameras would be a deterrent to crime.
MENSINGER - REDUCES THE NEED FOR SAFETY STAFF
Perhaps the most telling comment made during the discussion was by Mensinger, when he said, "The use of security cameras reduces the need for public safety staff." Uh, huh! Another admission of the attack on the Costa Mesa Police Department by a man who is in the middle of suing the men and women of the department. The item passed, 4-1 - Leece voted NO.
New Business #4, the modified rewards program that includes a proviso to pay a reward for damage to PRIVATE PROPERTY had virtually no discussion by the council. Tim Lewis spoke, stating it was "mercenary" and it sent the wrong message. People should do the right thing - report vandalism and other crimes - because it's the right thing to do. Cindy Black wondered if this program would apply to vandalism directed by council members - obliquely referring to the decomposed trail in Fairview Park. It passed on a 5-0 vote.
HERE'S THE TEXT OF THE PROPOSED NEW SECTION:
2-61 Conduct while addressing the council.
(a) Any person who engages in disorderly behavior that actually disrupts,
disturbs or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of any city council
meeting shall, upon an order by the presiding officer or a majority of the
city council, be barred from further audience before the city council during
that meeting, pursuant to the provisions of subdivision (c), below.
(b) Disorderly behavior under subdivision (a) may include, but is not limited to,
(1) Speaking without being recognized by the presiding officer.
(2) Yelling, or using a loud, disturbing voice.
(3) Using profanity or obscene gestures.
(4) Continuing to speak after the allotted time has expired.
(5) Speaking on an item at a time not designated for discussion by the
public of that item.
(6) Throwing objects.
(7) Speaking on an issue that is not within the jurisdiction of the city
(8) Continuing to speak after being informed by the presiding officer
that the comments are unduly repetitive of either prior comments
from that speaker or comments by other speakers.
(9) Attempting to engage the audience rather than the City Council.
(10) Disobeying any lawful order of the presiding officer or a majority of
the city council.
(11) Refusing to modify conduct after being advised by the presiding
officer that the conduct is disrupting the meeting.
(c) Enforcement. The rules of conduct while addressing the city council set
forth above shall be enforced in the following manner:
(1) Call to order and warning to desist. Whenever practicable, the
presiding officer or a majority of the city council shall give a warning
to the person who is breaching the rules of conduct to be orderly
and to comply with the rules of conduct hereunder. Such a warning
shall articulate the rule of conduct being violated and the manner in
which the person must comply.
A warning shall not be necessary when it would not be effective
under the circumstances, including when, but not limited to, the
disturbance is such that the warning cannot be heard above the
noise, or the conduct of the person or persons constitutes an
immediate threat to public safety, such as the throwing of objects or
specific threats of harm and the apparent, present ability to carry
out such threats. A warning shall also not be necessary when an
individual violates the rules of conduct more than once during a
council meeting, or continuously violates the rules of conduct
council meeting after council meeting.
(2) Order barring person from meeting. A person who engages in
disorderly behavior shall be barred from the remainder of that
council meeting by the presiding officer or a majority of the city
council when that person: (i) continues the disorderly behavior after
receiving a warning pursuant to subdivision (c)(1); (ii) ceases the
disorderly behavior upon receiving a warning pursuant to
subdivision (c)(1), but later in the same council meeting resumes
such disorderly behavior; or (iii) engages in disorderly behavior and
no warning is practicable under the circumstances, pursuant to
The continuation of disorderly behavior after receiving a warning,
repeated disorderly behavior during a council meeting, disorderly
behavior at council meeting after council meeting, or disorderly
behavior that is so significant that a warning cannot be given,
constitutes the type of behavior that actually disrupts, disturbs or
otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of a city council meeting.
(3) Removal. If the person barred from the meeting does not voluntarily
remove him/herself upon being instructed to do so by the presiding
officer or a majority of the city council, the presiding officer or the
majority of the city council may direct the sergeant-at-arms to
remove that person from the council chambers.
(d) The following conduct shall be unlawful and shall be punishable as a
(1) Continuing to engage in disorderly conduct, which disrupts, disturbs
or otherwise impedes the orderly conduct of any city council
meeting, after receiving a warning pursuant to subdivision (c)(1) of
(2) Refusing to leave a city council meeting after being directed to do
so pursuant to subdivision (c)(2) of this section.
(3) Returning to a council meeting after being barred, removed or
directed to leave such meeting pursuant to subdivisions (c)(2) and
(c)(3) of this section.
DIFFUSING THE ARGUMENTS EARLY
Early-on during the discussion Righeimer - apparently aware of the firestorm that was caused by this item - acknowledged right off the bat that item 3, profanity, should not be included and that item 8 also should be deleted. That one dealt with the "unduly repetitive" question. That defused many of the commentors who followed later, but not all.
LOTS OF DISCUSSION
Two hours and 22 speakers later, and following a spirited discussion by the council, the item passed on a 4-1 vote, with Leece voting NO. Much of the discussion revolved around specific items on that list above. At one point it was suggested to just eliminate the entire list. Individual items were fleshed out. The choices of "disruptive" and "disorderly" were discussed at length and it was eventually decided to leave that verbiage intact. Eventually, when the vote was taken it was decided to eliminate numbers 2,3 and 8 and combine numbers 10 and 11.
LOTS OF GOOD INPUT
There were many amusing and prescient comments made by members of the public. Among those was John Stephens' lawyerly dissection of "disruptive" and "disorderly", which launched that discussion. Greg Ridge expressed the view that the holiday we celebrate on Friday represents a long tradition of being "insolent" - the word in the current code section that started this whole thing. Mary Spadoni read the entire First Amendment of the United States Constitution, then read a parody of it as it might apply to Costa Mesa.
Long time resident Chuck Perry - a good pal of Mensingers - said "The thing that disgusts me the most - I just hate it - is when people make disgusting comments about the council." Another Mensinger buddy - "Costa Mayberry" walking companion, Estancia High School football coach Mike Bargas - told us that "three minutes was way too much time for some people to speak." He then used the word "turd" in a peculiar context, then - violating the policy about speaking to the audience, not the council - referred to folks who oppose the council majority as "a few squeaks". It's so "comforting" to hear those condescending words - obviously echoes of phrases he hears on his walks - coming from the mouth of a leader of our youth.
After a short, necessary, break the meeting reconvened at 11:20 p.m. to tackle the final item on the agenda - The Charter. Attorney Yolanda Summerhill, who had been a member of the Charter team, led the discussion of the staff report, HERE. Fourteen (14) people spoke to this issue - seven (7)) for it and eight (8) against. Of those seven supporting the Charter, three - Ron Amburgey, Gene Hutchins and Tom Pollitt - had been members of the Charter Committee. Among the opposed was Harold Weitzberg, also a member of the committee.
Weitzberg, the first speaker, correctly pointed out that this Charter was unnecessary because it, for the most part, just followed General Law. Sheila Pafflin, who is 100% against the Charter, said it gives too much power to the council. Charles Mooney, who attended every Charter Committee meeting, said that the Prevailing Wage segment - which formed the cornerstone of the argument for the Charter, actually represents a very insignificant financial savings and that Senate Bill 7 may cause us to actually lose state funding. He also indicated that the Charter addresses NONE of the current pension liability issues - only those well off into the future. Tamar Goldmann chided the council for putting this idea forward again after Jim Righeimer's Charter was so soundly defeated less than 2 years ago. Jay Humhrey looked forward to the enumeration of changes on the ballot statement. Robin Leffler threw back in Righeimer's face his claim that the Committee was NOT stacked, but fairly selected, when she described the actual process that was followed - which stacked the deck right off the bat. Terry Koken, in a rare VERY serious moment, described Righeimer's more than 16 year quest to weaken unions and sang the last few words.
Supporters also had their say. Amburgey, apparently practicing his stump speech for his run for a Mesa Water District Board seat in November, complained about the "big union" influence in the election and bemoaned that there were two groups opposing the Charter - unions and "Robin Leffler's group"... he undoubtedly has a hard time remembering Costa Mesans For Responsible Government (CM4RG). He was aghast that Leffler and her group would fight against progress.
MORE TRUE BELIEVERS
Gene Hutchins - to the surprise of absolutely nobody who has been watching - took only about ten words before he said the Charter would resolve our unfunded pension liability problems. Of course, that's not true, but he says it every time he opens his mouth. The Charter will have NO AFFECT on the current pension liabilities. Tea Party Tom Pollitt - also a member of the Charter Committee - was almost tongue-tied as he griped about people using the City of Bell as an example of what can happen with an abused Charter - stating that it could "NEVER HAPPEN" in Costa Mesa. He then launched into a little riff about "we're going to save millions of dollars for pensions and the Police Department and Fire Department." It doesn't surprise me at all that he lost his Orange County School Board challenge in June. I'm sorry, but the guy's just not very smart.
The council discussed the various changes that had been suggested for The Charter based on the last hearing. They are listed on page 2 of the staff report. I've copied and pasted them below:
Proposed Changes to Draft Charter
The proposed changes include:
A. Section 700 – Public Contracting – Clarify the City’s discretion to follow the Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Act.
B. Section 304 – Compensation - Include “shall continue to be limited” as in general law.
C. Section 306 – Include commissioners and committee members as well as council members.
D. Add Provision re: Elected Officer Qualifications – Follow general law.
E. Add Procedure for Adopting Ordinances – Follow general law.
F. Add Section 602 proposed by Pension Oversight Committee– Pensions – Financial Impact
G. Section 104 – Powers – Impose limitations on power.
H. Add Code of Ethics.
STOPPED SHORT OF "G" AND "H"
As they rushed to vote on this issue they just went down the list, one-by-one, and agreed to include each of the recommendations by the staff... through letter F. They completely ignored G and H!
THE ACCEPTED VERSION OF SECTION 104
Now, this comes as no surprise to me. In the case of G. - Section 104 of the proposed Charter reads as follows:
Section 104. Powers.
The City shall have the power to make and enforce all laws and regulations in respect to
municipal affairs, subject only to such restrictions and limitations as may be provided in
this Charter or in the Constitution of the State of California. In the event of any conflict,
this Charter shall control over the general laws of the State of California as to municipal
Section 104 as it reads gives the City full authority over municipal affairs regardless of whether the charter addresses that particular issue.
THE REJECTED VERSION
The following is the proposed modification - the one that was rejected by the council.
Section 104. Powers.
Except as enumerated in this charter, the general laws of the State of California shall
Ballot Description Pertaining to Section 104.
Section 104 would limit the City’s powers to those areas expressly addressed in the charter.
THE PLAN IS CLEAR
As you can see, this is a HUGE difference and, in my opinion, the fact that the council chose to reject the modification speaks volumes to their actual intent with this Charter. The Charter will go on the ballot with the language above and will provide the framework to do whatever they want once the Charter is in force. This is the stake in the heart of this latest Charter scheme.
Couple that with the outright rejection - again - of item H., a Code of Ethics, and it's clear that the council majority is going to be planning some very BIG changes - ones not codified in the Charter language, but that will be possible/probable with the language in Section 104 intact.
"SON OF V" ON THE BALLOT, BUT NOT UNANIMOUS
The council passed the resolution to place the Charter on the ballot on a 3-2 vote - Genis and Leece voted no. The two other companion issues - procedural matters - passed on 4-1 votes - Leece voted NO.
WATCH YOUR MAILBOX THIS FALL
And, in an interesting procedural twist, the council somehow decided - without a vote - to distribute four mailers in the run-up to the election at a cost of $8,400 each - $33,600. I guess that falls within CEO Hatch's authority. Here's the proposed distribution schedule:
- Mailer No. 1 (General Law vs. Charter City chart) – Sept. 25
- Mailer No. 2 (Charter FAQs): Oct. 6
- Mailer No. 3 (Reprint of the proposed charter): Oct. 20
- Optional - Mailer No. 4 (reprint of the proposed charter with margin notes): Oct. 27
So, we're off and running. It's going to be VERY interesting to see what kind of marketing strategy is used to peddle this Charter to the public. Personally, I don't think it's appropriate for the City to distribute pro-charter propaganda, so I'm going to be watching what comes out of City Hall on this issue.