Friday, October 03, 2014

Eastside Neighbors Forum A Success!

OK, folks... that's it!  No more political forums this cycle!  Whew!  Thursday night my friends of the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group held the final City Council candidate forum of this campaign season and, if our casual post-event poll is any indication, it was a rousing success.

Every person with whom we spoke following the event felt it was run well, with fair, relevant questions and even-handed moderation with enough latitude for audience reaction.  We saw no evidence of harassment of those in charge this time around, unlike two years ago when Jim Righeimer read the riot act to the hosts and moderator because he felt Steve Mensinger had been unfairly treated.  It was bullying at it's worst and we wrote about it at the time.

The President of the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group, Jeff McConville, got things moving promptly at 7:00 p.m.  By that time the room was full and folks were standing in the back.  Part of the rear wall was eventually opened up to provide more seating.  Based on information provided by the sponsors, we estimate that between 250 and 275 people attended the event.

Many of the attendees were residents.  I recognized them from past events.  Some were not - I recognized little knots of Republican Party operatives scattered throughout the crowd.  They became active cheerleaders during the evening.  That's OK - it's politics.  It's not ancient Rome, where the emperor can be swayed to give a "thumbs down" to a combatant by the voice of the crowd.

The moderator for the evening was Costa Mesa resident, lawyer and former council candidate two years ago, John Stephens.  He ran the event crisply, with just enough light-hearted reminders to the crowd about proper etiquette so as not to stifle the enthusiasm.

The format was NOT a debate format. As it played out, there were a total of thirteen (13) questions posed.  Three (3) candidates - and only three - had one minute to respond to the question.  There was NO back and forth, nor was there any interrupting of candidates by other candidates.  Stephens cautioned the candidates about that at the beginning.

Following the event some folks wondered if some candidates got off easy, not being required to answer the same number of questions as others.  Well, here's how it went.  Al Melone, Tony Capitelli, Jay Humphrey and Rita Simpson each answered six (6) questions.  Katrina Foley, Jim Righeimer and Chris Bunyan answered five (5).  Candidate Lee Ramos, as previously announced, did not show up for this event, even though the sponsors left a space at the table for him, just in case he changed his mind.... he didn't.

The questions covered the gamut of important issues in the city currently.  They included questions about the Charter; Pensions; Public Safety; Development; Fireworks; Sober Living Homes; Medical Marijuana; Fairview Park; Banning Ranch; the General Plan; Legal Expenses; the formation and appointments to commissions and committees.

I am NOT going to try to give you every answer to every question.  As you know, the City of Costa Mesa chose NOT to have CMTV cover this event so it was recorded for later viewing by a private contractor, Terry Wall, who will have it up and ready to view early next week.  When I know where to find it I'll let you know. And, Barry Friedland and his Costa Mesa Brief team were on hand to do before and after interviews, just as they did at the recent Feet To The Fire Forum.  I'll let you know when that video is available for viewing, too.  He sweet-talked me into participating this time - an act I'll probably regret, depending on how he edits my words.

My impressions of the evening.... The event was well run.  The questions were timely and pertinent.  Each candidate was treated with an even hand and provided exactly the same amount of time to answer questions.  Stephens, as the moderator, had just the right touch dealing with the candidates and the enthusiastic crowd.  The room as configured turned out to be too small.  Even with part of the back wall removed more than 30 people were left standing against the remaining wall.  This was, once again, the best forum of the series this year.  McConville and the committee for the Eastside Costa Mesa Neighbors Group are to be commended for an excellent event - again.

My impressions of the candidates....  (Bias Alert!  I don't like the way Righeimer does business, which certainly affects my views on this issue.)  I thought Katrina Foley and Jay Humphrey demonstrated a clear understanding of the issues to which they responded.  They presented a mature style one expects from persons who have, literally, "been there, done that".  In my view they are clearly the best choices for City Council this time around and their performance last night affirmed that for me.

Chris Bunyan, once again, did a fine job of mixing the responses to the questions with pointed explanations of how he felt Righeimer had failed and would fail if permitted to continue on the council.  He offered some good ideas and pointed out Righeimer's mistakes when the opportunity presented itself. 

Tony Capitelli, with his VERY pregnant wife, Julie, smiling up at him from the first row, did another credible job.  I like him a lot.  He's trying to sell himself as a bridge-builder between the generations and a voice of moderation.  However, through his employment as a representative for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, I think he just might be a "Righeimer-in-waiting".  He says no, but....

Al Melone continues to demonstrate insufficient knowledge of the issues, shooting from the hip on several answers.  And, I've seen him in action before the city council, where he has demonstrated a serious lack of patience that likely would transfer to his seat on the dais if elected.

Rita Simpson, the poor dear, has NO grasp of important issues facing the city, including those she holds as the cornerstone of her campaign - the Charter and Unfunded Pension Liability.  Her answers were taken from a script, from which she read throughout the evening.  I had the impression that if someone asked her how she's feeling these days, she'l likely have to refer to a manual before answering.  I cannot give her any support in this race.

My views of Jim Righeimer are well known.  He has demonstrated to me during his term on the City Council, and particularly while serving as mayor, that he is NOT a consensus-builder.  Far from it!  He operates exactly like a dictator.  He not only does not have an open mind when it comes to public input, he has overtly stifled it with many initiatives while in office.  His pro-development bias will only serve to increase density throughout the city - and particularly on my Eastside.  His proclamation that, when faced with motel owners who had what he thought were inflated ideas of the value of their property, he would bury them in police, fire and code enforcement that they would soon reconsider that value.. the goal was to have it sold to his developer-buddies, who would then benefit from special zoning to permit high-density housing at the site.  He said that very thing at the forum last night.
His stubborn unwillingness to hear the voice of the voters when they rejected his Charter two years ago and move forward with another, more onerous version this time around only amplifies my view of him as a dictator.  I shudder to contemplate a Charter like the one currently proposed in his hands, where he, through his methods and tactics, has systematically dismantled a once-proud city government, instead choosing to use very expensive consultants and outsource whatever he can.  His overt hatred of public employee associations has blinded him to fair negotiations which has resulted in severe service declines throughout government.

Righeimer has orchestrated the dismantling of the Costa Mesa Police Department - once the high-water mark for law enforcement agencies in our region.  It was a place where officers in other jurisdictions wanted to work because it had an outstanding reputation and because of the forward-thinking leadership of the department and the city.  No more.  Righeimer has caused the department to suffer serious staff shortages when he ignored the best professional opinions available to him in the form of hand-picked consultants and by the creation of a toxic workplace - one in which police officers are not only not appreciated, but vilified and sued by the elected leaders of this city.  He exacerbated that toxic atmosphere by refusing to let the Police Chief begin hiring replacements quickly enough to stop the bleeding of decades of experience to other agencies.  He caused officers to consider early retirement rather than stay on the job.  He, personally, has made every resident, business and visitor to the city less safe.  He cannot mutter excuses on this issue - he is responsible and is undeserving more time on the dais.  He has chosen pothole repair over public safety.  During recent discussions about the status of the Police Department he cavalierly said, "We're gonna be just fine.", while crime is on the rise and sober living homes are popping up like mushrooms throughout the city.  He frequently tells us that crime is because of the people who live here, yet he has created an environment that actually attracts criminals and depletes our protection from them.  Is that REALLY the kind of guy you want making major decisions about the future of our city?

Righeimer crows about previous councils "blowing through $35 million in reserves", but conveniently forgets to remember that those self-same councils had the foresite to build those reserves so they could be used when the economy went in the tank.  He crows about how neglectful councils in the past were responsible for the rapid increase in our unfunded pension liability, choosing not to mention that it was the economic downturn and resultant poor performance of the CalPERS investment portfolio that caused the unfunded liability to rise so dramatically, not only in Costa Mesa, but throughout the state.

Righeimer bleats about spending $40 million paving streets that he said had been neglected.  Well, those streets were on the schedule for re-paving long before he dragged his carpet-bagging carcass across the border from Fountain Valley.  He accelerated the paving schedule by using dollars saved by reducing the city staff to precarious levels - where service across the board has suffered and consultants have been used to try to hold things together.

He, almost single-handedly has caused our legal fees to rise astronomically during his tour on the council.  Apparently, to him having many lawsuits is just a cost of doing business.  That, apparently, is how he has conducted his business life, so he feels no remorse about burdening the city with astronomical legal fees because of his actions.

It was his action in 2011 to attempt to illegally layoff nearly half the so-called "miscellaneous employees" that began that parade of legal difficulties. We're still paying lawyers on that fiasco.  And, of course, poor Huy Pham leaped to his death that Saint Patrick's Day.

On his watch the now-infamous 60th Anniversary Celebration scandal erupted and remains unresolved, even though the city paid off the man responsible for creating and overseeing the event.  His minions claim the issue is resolved - an opinion not supported by the investigators in the District Attorney's office, which has not yet generated a report.  As demonstrated by that event, he uses the Conference and Visitors Bureau as his own personal slush fund.  And, while proclaiming to be a fiscal conservative and budget hawk, he creates a $1 million piggy bank in the form of his CEO's contingency fund, where his whims can be funded without much oversight.

Do you remember when the Conference and Visitors Bureau funded a junket for Righeimer and others to a city in China touted as a "business developement opportunity"?  What ever came of that  "business"?  As far as we have been told - zip, nothing, nada!

And, how about those annual city-funded jaunts to Las Vegas where Righeimer takes an entourage of city staffers to drum-up business at a shopping center trade show.  How many businesses have relocated to Costa Mesa as a result of those trips?  Any?

Speaking of pensions and oversight, he created a committee - stacked with his pals - that meets frequently to try to figure out how to solve the pension issue.  One of the very first things that group did was hear a presentation on Municipal Bankruptcy by one of its members.  Even though his cronies continue to meet, Righeimer has frequently acknowledged that we, the city, cannot resolve the pension issue alone - it's a state-wide issue.

Righeimer has proven to be an untrustworthy person even before he took office.  He was part of the group that tried to sell the Orange County Fairgrounds and manipulated the process to get his cronies assigned to the advisory committee considering that move.

And, do you remember the attempt to privatize the TeWinkle Sports Complex?  That happened only a couple years ago, yet it has left an open, festering wound of distrust behind.

Last night, during a discussion of Fairview Park, he arrogantly said that "nobody cared about Fairview Park until we tried to do some improvements over there.", and referred to the playground near the end of Pacific Avenue.  He might just as well spit directly in the face of Native American groups who care about the history of that site and every resident who enjoys Fairview Park for what it is - an oasis of natural beauty in our city.  It's that kind of an attitude from which the creation of the now-infamous decomposed granite trail springs.  That "I know what's good for you, so don't question me." attitude is what makes him such a dangerous person in a leadership position in our city.  He and his cohorts don't much like rules - at least other people's rules - so they just ignore them and/or make up new ones.

An example of that is his full-court press on development in the city.  His developer buddies gripe to him and his cronies about how hard it is to build projects with all those darn rules designed to protect the character of our neighborhoods and the sanctity of our homes so, all of a sudden, we have a Small Lot Ordinance which codifies the elimination of those protections that have made Costa Mesa an appealing place to live for six decades.  Now we will be seeing six homes where there once was one and tenement-style stacked homes springing up in industrial zones, occupying contaminated land sites, taxing the infrastructure - water, sewer, streets, etc., - and blocking those precious ocean breezes so many so-called improvers have touted for decades.  His cronies, placed in positions of great power without the maturity to handle it, vindictively threaten to punish the Sanitary District by recommending developers contract with other trash haulers for new developments.  All this is done for Righeimer's developer-pals, who will jump into town, build their onerous projects, then skip right on out of town again, leaving these disasters in their wakes.

On Righeimer's watch the Banning Ranch development, which would dump virtually ALL it's residential and retail traffic onto Costa Mesa city streets, has been given a free ride.  Although the project is in Newport Beach, negotiations for traffic mitigations fell far, far short of what is really necessary to do the job.  Again, his priorities are NOT the residents of the city, but his developer pals.

In recent months Righeimer led the charge to reject the establishment of an Ethics Policy when, based on that 60th Anniversary scandal, such a policy is clearly appropriate and necessary.  Do you really want a guy at the helm of our city who holds ethics in such low regard?  I sure don't!

Righeimer has told us many times recently that he's willing to stand on his record.  That's great news for those of us who have watched him in action.  His record alone should disqualify him for further consideration for a seat on the City Council.  I will NOT be voting for Jim Righeimer and hope you won't, either.  Neither will I vote for Measure "O", the bastard son of Measure V, Jim Righeimer's Charter.

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Blogger Joe said...


Outstanding post! It perfectly summarizes how we got here and why.

I hope the folks at the Costa Mesa Historical Society are putting it all on disk.

In a home off Adams, 2064:

"Mom, what's a "Righeimer?"

"Well, Bobby, he was a city council member in the past who helped create all those high-rise slums we see today."

"Then why is his name on every public toilet in town?"

"As a reminder that the brand of his damage was strong."

"Then what's a "Mensinger?"

"That's the football-shaped cell on Fair Drive where they bring all the eco criminals!"

10/03/2014 06:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I couldn't agree more with this assessment. Poor Rita. Does she know what a Bill of Rights is? Apparently not. Poor dear.

It didn't come out that Rig is taking money from rehab home developers. No wonder he's done nothing in the past year to alleviate the problem.

Katrina did well exposing the money we spend on Jones Day law firm. Over a million dollars for no apparent reason whatsoever. Yet, they pay Rig huge campaign contributions. Any wonder why they're still around?

Truly, the best way, while paying down the pension liability, is to insure that your city is financially healthy. By that I mean businesses in full swing, bringing in revenue and patrons from out of the city. Generating money. A strong, healthy city economy. That is the only way we will not be sunk by not being able to pay our bills. We cannot put all our eggs in one basket, which is SCP. We need businesses in town for revenue and jobs. Why has absolutely nothing been done about that? It looks like about half of our store fronts are vacant. That, to me, is even scarier than the rest of the problems.

As for Al, well, what can you say about Mr. Coyote? That's his whole reason for existing apparently.

I like Capitelli also. I'd be tempted to vote for him except that he is pro charter, which really doesn't matter if he gets voted in and the charter fails, but it does show a leaning toward a lack of democracy that is this charter. I don't agree that it points to him as another Righeimer, but it does show me that he has no problem with dictatorship. Nice guy though, and has done great work with the homeless issues, for which we are all extremely grateful.

Bunyan likes to go after the mayor. I'm good with that. But there needs to be more than just an attack dog in order to accomplish things. He has a mouth and a backbone, but that seems to be all. I've not heard any real substantial information as to what he would do if on the council besided displace the mayor. Well, maybe that in itself is a good thing. But seriously, no experience, no knowledge, nothing to put much trust in there.

I can't get started on the mayor or I'll be at this forever. He's beyond a donkey's rearend.

Jay and Katrina are the only two that really show a knowledge of what needs to be done. Their expertise and experience are what is needed now to get things back on track.

So, in the end, I'm still voting for Jay and Katrina, and NO ON "O".

10/03/2014 07:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Gay Royer said...

I had a very interesting incident when I was leaving last night! As I was walking out to the parking lot two men were going out the door at the same time. One said "Do you know who you are voting for?" and I said "not Jim for sure." His next comment "I really missed Lee tonight." I said he only came to the Feet to the Fire and maybe because of the stress of his injury was why he didn't come. I did say I couldn't believe that he was suing and out of his mouth came nothing about Lee but "Jim is my hero for suing the police." I told him I found the condescending treatment of the citizens and especially women by the council troubling and he threw out "Don't play the woman card on me!"

Mind you, he was about 6'5" So I immediately turned around and came back in the building. I have never seen him anywhere before and don't want to. Did they bus some people in? You should be able to have a decent discussion. He started the conversation. Great blob Geoff about the night. I thought it went really well! John Stephens did a great job.

10/03/2014 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

"nobody cared about Fairview Park until we tried to do some improvements over there." Geoff, you neglected to mention the hoots, hollers, and boos that confronted Da Mare when he uttered this pronunciamento.

Unfortunately, my wife vetoed my plan to put a crapper in the front yard -- I'll have to content myself with signs for Foley and Humphrey and against measure O, the big goose egg. It puts the power of eminent domain into the hands of a constituency that (as in the case of Allan Mansoor) might be as thin as 12.9 percent of the voters of the city. I predict that it will go down with less than 40% of the vote this time -- but only if we can get the citizens out to vote.


10/03/2014 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

What- OCGOP bringing in shills to support the mayor? Why- Were the usual suspects out burning insects with a magnifying glass?

10/03/2014 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous David on Lorenzo said...

It would be interesting to know how Henry Segerstrom and the Segerstrom family feel about all of these issues affecting our city, which includes their South Coast Plaza.
Great post!

10/03/2014 11:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Gay Royer said...

So sorry Geoff about saying blob instead of blog!

10/03/2014 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Gay, saw it... couldn't fix it so posted it anyhow. You may have been right, though! ;-)

10/03/2014 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

I was amazed at the concern of the tea party for the Eastside Forum, they by passed their own FTF to oversee ours and have a cumbaya moment. Even their candidates who were suppose to participate were at Eastside. a showing of solidarity with CM...Melone, arf arf
Bunyan skammin Riggy; Rita get this woman a cookie; Capitelli more seasoning; Jay good and steady; Katrina smart and composed. The forum was well run and John was great, kept order and moved it along...the best offer the caveat, zi kept moving my chair back, away from Riggy in case the lightning bolt would strike. Now I know why he wanted to be an actor because he is good...keeps a straight through all that bs...gotta love this city

10/03/2014 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

The photos that the Daily Pilot chose to run for the last 2 forums both feature Jim in the center and is sharpest focus. This doesn't seem like unbiased journalism. Two former DP staffers now work at City Hall. Is the photographer or his editor looking to jump ship?

10/03/2014 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Marquis said...

I attended last night. A couple of my takeaways:

I wouldn't trust Capitelli as far as I could throw him. He works for Dana Rorabacher and thinks Dana is doing a great job, so he's either not too smart or he's sold out common sense for political gain. Rorabacher has sponsored exactly three bills in 25 years that actually became law, all variations of the same space contracting theme, NONE since 2000. Yeah, that's a model politician to emulate.

Also did not like his lead off that he was a man of faith and would be guided by that. Dana Jr. + Rig Jr. with a little extra helping of religious righteousness. Don't be fooled.

And like many others, I was completely offended by Rig's comment that nobody cared about Fairview Park until he and Mensinger decided that it needed lights and paving. As a city, we've always cared about Fairview Park, having defended it many times in the past from the threat of development. Remember the golf course expansion plans, for example?

With that statement, Rig once again proves that he's a political moron. If instead he had said something along the lines of, "I've re-thought my position on Fairview Park and we're going to just leave it alone", he would have completely defanged some very vocal opposition at a political cost of zero to him. He chooses arrogance instead and that will be why he loses in November. He's too dumb to fool any electorate that's not completely asleep and the electorate is more awake now than at any time in my 35 years in CM.

10/03/2014 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

I was providing some of those boos. What an idiotic statement from Righeimer!
He lies with the ease of taking a breath.
Did he think he would get a good response from that?

Great writeup, Geoff.
This was the best candidate forum by far, as it was last election season.

Kudos to the ECMNG, John Stephens and all who made it possible.

10/03/2014 09:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

Thanks, Geoff, for another great post!

Marquis - I completely agree with your assessment of Capitelli. Certainly not what we need on the cc, especially right now.

ZM - the RIGmeister, I've also heard, was also a card carrying Union member of SAG! Do you know anything about that? Funny how he never talks about his studying acting or his union membership in SAG. Is it possible he was studying acting just so he could use it in his political career? As you said, he is quite good at keeping a straight face through all the BS and lies that come out of his mouth, as well as his practiced sincerity ("I get it now", etc., etc.)!! But certainly not Oscsar worthy by any stretch of the imagination! Are you sure the acting Righeimer is one and the same as "our" RIGmeister?!?

10/03/2014 09:35:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

Dunno, Geoff. I'm going to have to digest your endorsements with the other bloggers in town and decide.

The Nazi has endorsed Riggy and....wait for it....Rita Simpson! Some sort of babble about Aunt Bee. Of course, his hatred for those of any pigment other than ivory precludes him from the party-line pawn Ramos.

Meanwhile, the "kindler, gentler, blogger" has gotten pretty meaner and nastier lately. He has taken to using terms like "idiots" trolls" and "two-faced" to those he disagrees with. Of course he is backing the Lee the Stooge because he listens. At least I think that is the reason. His posts have gotten so bizzare it is like they are written in some sort of code. I truly think he's gone off the deep end. He seems to be off his cat fascination and now is posting pictures of gulls.

And then we have Fitzys wisdom on his CMTAX blog. If I were Mrs. Riggy, I would be worried that the chubby Bostonian is romantically attached to her crooked husband. It seems more than just political appreciation, I think it's love.

But I am 99.999% leaning your way Geoff. This election is so critical for this city. We gotta get rid o' Riggy or I truly fear for the future of our great town.

10/04/2014 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Ah, Honeyman, you made me smile... Yes, The Mouth From Mesa North seems to have proven what most of us already know - that his prejudices drive his every waking moment... very sad waste of an intellect. And, yes, that other old gray-haired guy seems to be speaking in tongues more and more. He's the "brains" behind Ramos' campaign, which says a lot about his political cowardice in not showing up at 2/3 of the forums. I'm glad you're leaning my way.. I'll do what I can to kick you over the top for that other .0001% ;-)

10/04/2014 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

I was involved with the initial charter fiasco, two years ago. This charter, if possible is fifty times worse. The passage of the charter in the hands of Riggy is the end of our city as we have known it. Foley and Humphrey are my choice, they bring experience and legal expertise. Capitelli, has has youth but no experience to back his play, no commissions, never have seen him in council or pc or any meeting Ive been that wasn't related to his electioneering. Bunyan will be a vote splitter for sure, and may push it over for Riggy. I have thought out the strategy and have decided to vote with my head not my heart. Costa Mesa first, Foley Humphrey bring what we need, besides, a majority, they are reasonable, smart and experienced. I love this city, our vote cannot be bought by the highest bidder.Victory in NOvember.

10/04/2014 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous And So it Goes said...

Was Fitzpatrick drunk? Sure looked like it. And what's with all the weird faces he makes?

10/04/2014 03:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Meanwhile, Gary is whining about Katrina and Jay trying to put him out of business, and the police picking on him. Then he invites people to a fundraiser for the kind and gentle Jim R. (not to be confused with Jim F. or Jim F.).

Isn't Jim's m.o. using the volume of police calls to shut down hotels so developers can buy them cheaply?

Can you say "ironic."

10/04/2014 06:33:00 PM  

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