NO SURPRISE, BUT...
At a meeting that probably ran an hour longer than necessary, Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger
was elected as mayor and Mayor Jim Righeimer
was elected Mayor Pro Tem. Sounds simple enough, but it was not without drama. More on that later...
LAWSUITS DISCUSSED EARLIER
The meeting began shortly after 6:00 p.m. following a closed session to discuss several law suits. It just wouldn't be a council meeting without lawsuits being discussed these days.
PLEA FOR CONCILIATION
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, led by termed-out council woman Wendy Leece
, Pastor Mike Decker
led the moment of solemn expression and called for conciliation and a return to more civil times. Sounded like a good idea at the time. Three hours later we found out that it's going to be business as usual. How very sad for the city.
The meeting played to a Standing Room Only crowd, about equally mixed with Righeimer supporters and Foley fans. We found that out at one point when the two factions sniped at each other.
SPEAKERS THANK LEECE, GAZSI AND BRING COATS
During Public Comments seventeen (17) speakers stepped up to address the council. Almost all of them thanked Leece for her decades of service and many also thanked Police Chief Tom Gazsi
, who is leaving next week for a very important job with the Los Angeles Port Police Department. More than a few hauled coats to the dais as an "in-your-face" statement to Righeimer, who earlier had protested the collection of warm coats for needy Costa Mesa children - a program Katrina Foley has sponsored for years. It was clear by evening's end that the backlash generated many more coats than anticipated. One had to smile at the political gaffe by Righeimer, who fancies himself a first-class politician.
A couple speakers called for Mensinger and Righeimer to abandon their lawsuit as a sign of good faith. I smiled.
SOBER LIVING HOMES
Others demanded action on the sober living home problem and observed that we already have two lawsuits and the applications still are not ready for the operators to obtain.
During Council Member Comments Sandra Genis
led off with a statement about her disappointment with the rhetoric following the last election - the one in which she was the highest vote-getter. At that time, she said, she hoped for some sign of a willingness to consider all views and to work together. She told us she gave it three months, by which time she realized that cooperation was not going to be happening. She called for a "goal-setting" meeting by the council so a road map of their direction could be determined - and perhaps find common ground. She also praised Leece and Gazsi.
LEECE THANKS GAZSI AND BROUGHT A COAT
Leece came next and addressed the coat drive - holding up a gently-used coat donated by her grandson. She told the audience we had been blessed by the presence of Tom Gazsi as Police Chief and wished him luck. She also called for the abandonment of the lawsuit.
thanked Gazsi and Leece and welcomed Foley back to the dais.
Righeimer spoke next and asked CEO Tom Hatch
for an update on the sober living home issue. He then whined about all the tough issues they face, including the Pension Liability issue, stating - again - that it was a state-wide problem and that the State is going to have to step in, but it will take a couple more cities to go bankrupt for that to happen. Parts of the crowd grumbled at that one.
He then complimented Leece for her service, stating that he enjoyed working with her. I smiled, because his definition of "working with" is very different than mine. In the case of Leece, his means "ignoring you all the time".
THE LAW SUIT
Righeimer then launched off on a mini-tirade about the lawsuit. He attempted to portray the Costa Mesa Police Association as bullies and extortionists, citing actions by the law firm they had employed. He told us he and his wife didn't need this - the lawsuit.
Then Righeimer summoned Gazsi to the speaker's podium, where he proceeded to present him with a proclamation about his service to the community. Gazsi received a standing ovation, then delivered one of the best, most inspirational speeches I can recall, citing the outstanding men and women of the department, the standards set by previous chiefs, and much, much more.
Then it was Mensinger's turn. He congratulated Foley on her victory and Leece and Gazsi for their service. He then also addressed the lawsuit and complained about how hard it is for his children to hear bad things said about him. He emphasized that he will NEVER
abandon the lawsuit.
During his segment Hatch also praised Gazsi and, at one point, said, "I love you, Tom
." He then turned to the Medical Marijuana issue. He affirmed that there will be a meeting next Tuesday - the 9th - at which the sole issue will be the various elements of the Medical Marijuana situation. There are two competing initiatives, plus Monahan's previous scheme Plus the possibility of a special election OR
waiting for the General Election in two years. That meeting starts at 6:45 p.m., although there will be a closed session at that time, so the actual start time of the open meeting is unclear. He stressed the need for community input at the meeting.
SOBER LIVING HOMES
Hatch then turned to the sober living home issue and confirmed two lawsuits have been filed so far because of the new ordinance. He also confirmed that there have been "unfortunate
" delays in getting the applications prepared for distribution to willing operators. He also emphasized the need for "a lot of Code Enforcement
" presence to enforce the ordinance. He said it is his "top priority
", and stressed the recent events on Senate Street where a dozen beds were seen being taken into a home that had just been investigated - citing citizen involvement by providing photos showing the activity.
Finally, at 7:30, we finally got around to the main issue at hand - the certification of the election results and the election of a new mayor and mayor pro tem. Ten individuals spoke on this issue, most of them off the mark. Many thanked Leece and Gazsi for their service. Gene Hutchins
continued to express concern about the failure of Measure O, and complained about the unfunded pension liability - again. Cindy Black
presented comic books to each of the council members the stars of which she said represented each of the council members. I smiled.
RIDGE ON MEASURE "P" GAFFE
complained about Measure P, the confusing ballot measure about the I-405 toll lanes. He told the City Attorney, Tom Duarte
, that it never should have appeared on the ballot that way. He then observed that the council sits before a wall on which the words "In God We Trust
" are embossed and suggested those words are on the wrong wall - they should be on the back wall where the council can see them.
Righeimer then guided the presentation of a proclamation to Leece for her service. Leece then took the opportunity to introduce her family and showed slides. In addition to the proclamation presented by Righeimer, she also received acknowledgment by the city staff, presented by Hatch; a photo album presented by the 5th floor support staff; the Orange County library staff for her involvement in library issues; Think Together
, for her involvement in education; Orange County Vector Control
, for her active participation and support of that group; Hank Lloyd from the Costa Mesa Tennis Center
recognized her help getting professional tennis to the city; Moorlach
stepped up, gave her a BIG hug (I thought we'd have to turn a hose on them!) and recounted their long relationship and praised her for her service to the community and Robin Leffler
made a presentation from Costa Mesans For Responsible Government
for her activism and support for the community.
COUNCILWOMAN KATRINA FOLEY
At 8:20 we got around to swearing-in Katrina Foley - the highest vote-getter in this election by far. Following that procedure by City Clerk Brenda Green
, Foley took a seat on the dais and proceeded to thank her supporters, her office staff and her family. She told the audience that many folks have high expectations for her on the council and she's not sure she can meet all of them. She hopes to find ways to collaborate with the other council members and called for a toning down of the rhetoric and vitriol that marked the campaign - on both sides. She asked HER
supporters to give it three months - to address facts, but not with rancor. She said "We're all in this car pool together
". She encouraged speakers to come to the meetings and focus on facts and to join her in bringing civility back to government.
RIGHEIMER, AGAIN - BARELY
At 8:35 Righeimer - who beat Jay Humhprey by only 47 votes - was sworn-in by Green and thanked "everyone for being here
". He said "my kids are getting an education
". He thanked his wife and daughters, Mensinger and his wife, Robin and his staff, including Jon Fleishman
(who publishes the FlashReport - a conservative newsletter). He thanked some supporters in the audience and the city staff.
Righeimer told us the City is in "real good shape
". Then said, "Let's all just work together.
", observing that the campaign is over and addressed the acrimony on Facebook that has marked this campaign. He said, "We agree on 95% of the stuff and the other 5% is important
." I'm not sure what he meant by that, since most of what they work on is important to somebody in the city. Maybe he meant that 5% was important to him and the rest, not so much.
Before the election of officers there were three speakers. Gene Hutchins
suggested the continuation of Righeimer as mayor. Planning Commission Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick
- who recently called for the City to "do something
" about this blog on Facebook - stepped to the podium and told us he referred to Righeimer as "Black Jack Riggy
" because of how the votes shifted during the counting process. A strange comment, for sure. Anyhow, he supported Mensinger for mayor, citing him dragging Fitzpatrick away from work (does he have a job?) to go look at a development as a reason to consider him for mayor. Fitzy is a strange guy... Colin McCarthy
suggested that they get back to the previous practice and rotate the Mayor Pro Tem into the mayor's slot. He suggested Mensinger for the job and cited a "seamless transition
"... I smiled.
Then came the nominations. Genis nominated Foley for Mayor, citing her prior service, legal training and that she was the top vote-getter in the election. After a pause during which there was no second forthcoming Foley spoke up and said she didn't feel right about seconding that nomination and that she supported the rotation concept and would support Mensinger for mayor if he was nominated.
Monahan nominated Mensinger and Righeimer immediately seconded his nomination. At 8:55 Steve Mensinger was elected Mayor of the City of Costa Mesa on a 5-0 vote. He then proceded to thank his family - his parents flew down from northern California for the event. He mentioned his liberal aunt Peggy - a legend in Modesto where she was an extremely effective council member.
At 9:00 Monahan nominated Righeimer for Mayor Pro Tem and Mensinger seconded. Foley nominated Genis, citing the fact that she was experienced, next in the rotation and that her appointment to the position would be a show of good faith in the spirit of cooperation called for earlier by both sides. She hoped one of the members would second her nomination. When none was forthcoming Genis observed that two years ago it took her three months to understand the situation on the dais, but that she's learning much quicker this time around. (It only took 5 minutes this time!) The vote was called and Righeimer was elected Mayor Pro Tem on a 3-2 vote - Foley and Genis voted NO
. And so it begins... so much for that spirit of cooperation. The two candidates in the last two elections who received the greatest number of votes - by far - were shut out of leadership positions. I suspect, though, this time around it's going to be very different. Foley will NOT
sit quietly by as the male majority runs roughshod over the rules.
CLUELESS ON THE DAIS
Mensinger then issued a proclamation to outgoing Mayor Righeimer and asked Moorlach to help. Moorlach used that opportunity to, instead, thank Gazsi for his service and recounted their long friendship to the audience. As an aside, when Mensinger asked Moorlach to step to the podium he identified him as "hopefully our next Senator from California
". Poor guy is clueless! Moorlach is running for the California State Senate! It's going to be a long, long couple of years with Mensinger at the helm. Somebody better find a tutor for him - quick!
ANOTHER CALL FOR HARMONY...
Before they quickly dealt with the Consent Calendar Foley again called for her supporters to just take a deep breath for awhile and strive for harmony. That's going to be like a whisper in a hurricane...
STARTING WITH A BANG (OR BONG) NEXT WEEK
A reception was held for the new council members in Conference Room 1A, which seemed to be sparsely attended when I wandered through. Next Tuesday they get down to business on the Medical Marijuana issue - and it's not going to be pretty. See you there.
KATRINA'S COATS FOR KIDS...
Oh, yes... Katrina's Coat Drive appeared to be a huge success. This photo shows only those hauled up to the City Council Chambers porch. Others left their's in the car. One person had 48 coats she had collected from friends and neighbors in her car. A big shout-out to Righeimer for his ham-handed handling of this issue which gave it MUCH MORE
publicity than it might have otherwise gotten.
Labels: 2014 Election Results, Gary Monahan, Jim Righeimer, John Moorlach, Katrina Foley, Medical Marijuana, Sober Living Homes, Steve Mensinger, Tom Duarte, Tom Gazsi, Tom Hatch, Wendy Leece