...ON THE WAY TO A MEETING
Yep, a funny thing happened on the way to a neighborhood community meeting on the proposed expansion of Orange Coast College - a "Jim Righeimer For City Council
" campaign stop broke out! Well, that's what it seemed like, anyhow.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL!
Beginning at 6 p.m. sharp a crowd of around 60 Costa Mesa residents gathered on the driveway at 222 Hanover Drive to hear Mayor Righeimer expound on the planned expansion of our local community college, bemoan the lack of outreach, the probable increase in traffic and acknowledge that there is really almost NOTHING
the City can do about it. And yet, there he was, smack-dab in the middle of his run for re-election, surrounded by a handful of senior city staffers for moral and technical support, complaining about something he can do nothing about. This was less than 24 hours after he and his cronies crashed a campaign event for Katrina Foley
, Jay Humphrey
and Wendy Leece
the night before, HERE
, and HERE
LOTS OF SENIOR STAFF PRESENT
In addition to Righeimer and his pal, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger
- who lurked and smirked around the perimeter of the crowd like a Secret Service body guard - the attendees included Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch
; Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz
; Transportation Services Manager Raja Sethuraman
; Development Services Director Gary Armstrong
; Communication Director Bill Lobdell
; Assistant Development Services Director Claire Flynn
; Management Analyst Dan Baker
and Hatch's Executive Assistant, Kelly Shelton
. Plus, councilwomen Sandra Genis
and Wendy Leece
were also present. I'm not sure whether having 4/5 of the City Council present constituted a Brown Act Violation or not. Only three of them spoke - Righeimer and Genis spoke on the issue and Leece had to verbally slap Righeimer upside the head once to remind him that he shouldn't be campaigning. It made me smile.
A REAL LEADER
Also present was former mayor Mary Hornbuckle
, currently President of the Coast Community College District Board of Trustees, which administers Orange Coast College, among others. She has served on that board for nearly a decade.
HUMPHREY SIGNS VISIBLE
As I cruised through the College Park neighborhood where the meeting was to be held I couldn't help but notice the Jay Humphrey For City Council campaign signs that peppered many of the lawns. His were the only signs visible, including right next door to the home where the meeting was to be held and right in the line of sight of Righeimer as he spoke.
NOT EVERYONE WAS HAPPY TO SEE THE MAYOR
Also in his line of sight was a large banner held by activist Cindy Black
, shown here with Righeimer supporter and candidate for a seat on the Mesa Water District Board, Ron Amburgey,
as he admired the sign. I suspect Righeimer was not happy with that banner being so clearly visible to him and certainly was not happy when Black occasionally flashed another smaller sign which said in bright, bold, red letters - "I DON'T BELIEVE YOU!
THE ALLEGED PURPOSE OF THE MEETING
Here are three graphics that were posted for all to see. They present an image of the changes proposed, a city-generated synopsis of the impacts of the changes and a list of OCC representatives to contact. Additionally, you can read the Draft Environmental Impact Report HERE
RIGHEIMER AND HARKINS NEXT WEEK
During the meeting Righeimer told us he would be meeting with OCC President Dennis Harkins
next week to discuss this program and its impacts. He spoke of the planned increase of students - he mentioned 6,922 additional folks attending within the next few years. This will still be short of the highest levels attained a few years ago, but the planned infrastructure changes will put a serious crimp on traffic flow and tax other infrastructure elements, as well.
He complained that OCC needed to define the reason for these changes to justify the $700 million bond issue.
TRAFFIC AND MORE...
He and Munoz reminded us of the probable traffic impacts of this project at full build-out - more than 17,000 daily vehicle trips. That's much more than the 13,500 trips associated with the Banning Ranch development if it is completed.
TWO DOZEN SPEAKERS
More than two dozen residents - a mixture of College Park residents who walked or rode bicycles to the meeting and "regulars" at council and commission meetings - asked questions and made comments covering a wide range of issues. They dealt with the presumption that this expansion was to accommodate an increase of foreign students because they pay a higher fee to attend. Some speculated that the college was being prepared to convert to a 4-year university. Others worried about parking throughout their neighborhoods. Presently there are signs posted indicating that the on-street parking is for permitted residents only. Several speakers pressed Righeimer for alternatives - which he didn't have.
THE VERY YOUNG, TOO
One very young fellow spoke, complaining about the proposed traffic and the failure of the college to build a Science Center on the Fairgrounds space.
PUBLIC SAFETY SHORTAGES
Speakers mentioned the shortage of police officers and the impacts this expansion would have on the CMPD and the Fire Department. There were no members of the CMPD or CMFD present.
During his frequent postulations he used the phrase "come from
", as it "What's your come from?
" I assume he meant, in the context of the college, what's your goal? Sometimes he speaks in tongues. He directed Hatch to have the City Attorney look at the issue. Do you smell even MORE
legal fees? I do!
Early in the discussions one speaker observed that Righeimer frequently said The City should be run like a business, and this move by OCC seemed to be following that philosophy - running it like a business. He quickly denied making that observation about the City. I glanced around and saw many folks who follow these issues just shake their heads because we all have heard him time after time expound on how the City SHOULD
be run like a business. For him to deny it only adds fuel to the belief that you just can't believe anything he says.
WENDY STEPS ON HIS LIP!
A little later Righeimer tried to fold into the conversation his campaign rant about the previous council "blowing through" $35 million in reserves. That's when Leece spoke up and corrected the record and told him to stop campaigning. She reminded him that the previous councils had actually built-up those reserves and found it necessary to spend them during the economic downturn the end of the last decade. For once he didn't have any kind of a snappy retort - because he was just flat-out wrong!
HORNBUCKLE TO THE RESCUE
Near the end Righeimer asked Hornbuckle, who had been quietly and intently listening to each and every speaker, to say a few words. She stepped right up and told the crowd about the process that was being followed. She said the whole issue is being reviewed and that the Environmental Impact Report is being revisited, and that nothing is going to happen until the first of the year. She said everyone will have a chance to observe the new plans and comment upon them BEFORE
any final decisions are made and the proposal are passed on up the line to the State. She told us that the State has encouraged colleges to become more "entrepreneurial" because funding is so tight. She calmly fielded every question asked with a steady demeanor that has marked her tenure in public life. Watching her in action made me long for the good old days, before mindless partisanship took control of our city government and decisions were made by the elected leaders that were best for the city without consideration for individual political careers or party edicts. At one point, as she explained her views, she observed that she hoped those running for office this year would NOT make the OCC situation part of their election platform. Righeimer knew what she meant. She made me smile.
ENDED WITH A WHIMPER...
So, the evening ended as the sun had already set and this glorious moon was about to rise, with Righeimer's instruction to the staff to stay on top of this issue and to communicate with the attendees on any changes/progress that's being made. Keep in mind that the City has very limited authority to do ANYTHING
about any of this. It's going to be very interesting to see what kind of changes are made to this plan by the college district and college officials as the fall moves on in this election year.
Labels: Bill Lobdell, Ernesto Munoz, Gary Armstrong, Jay Humphrey, Jim Righeimer, Mary Hornbuckle, Orange Coast College, Raja Sethuraman, Ron Amburgey, Sandy Genis, Steve Mensinger, Tom Hatch, Wendy Leece