Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Of Cronyism, Bad Judgment And The Demise Of A Recycling Center

The Costa Mesa City Council meeting that began on Tuesday, January 20, 2015 and, despite beginning early with the new start time of 5:45 and despite Public Commenters doing their best to trim their comments to fit into Mayor Steve Mensinger's new scheme, the meeting ran into Wednesday morning.

The agenda was juggled to shove Public Hearing #2, the appeal of the revocation of the conditional use permit for the recycling facility in the Stater Bros. parking lot on Newport Boulevard, to the end of the agenda.  This was done to permit councilman Gary Monahan - who arrived late -  to leave early and not have to sit around as he was conflicted out participating in the discussion.  More on that in a minute.

The BIG story of the evening - the one that caused the most audible reaction from the audience and the one that apparently has social media going white-hot - was an issue that commenter Sue Lester brought up during Public Comments.  About twenty minutes into the allotted time for comments she began telling the council about a fundraiser councilman Monahan was having at his pub for the surviving "family" of a man killed by members of the Costa Mesa Police Department after he pulled a gun on them while they were trying to serve a warrant on him on out-of-state issues.  You can read Jeremiah Dobruck's article - published, ironically, at precisely the time Lester was addressing the council on the issue - HERE.  Adding to the irony of the moment, Monahan came strolling in to the meeting as Lester spoke.  Fifteen minutes later, during Council Member Comments, Monahan admitted that he was having a "wake" at his pub to help out the dead guy's girlfriend and her son.  Apparently, this fellow - identified by Dobruck as Julius "Jay" Pinson -  had operated an antique business near Monahan's place and was a frequent customer.  Monahan did not know he was a fugitive, on the run from criminal acts in New Mexico and Texas - including one of "sexual penetration of a minor" - according to Dobruck's article.

There were several times the audience was restless last evening, but this one item seemed to cause the most concern.  Monahan's reasoning for holding a fundraiser, on one hand seemed like a civil thing to do for the survivors of a friend - that's what Monahan considered this guy - and on the other seems to basically give the finger to the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department,  two of whom were fired upon by this guy.  This is just one more example of the truly terrible relationship that exists between the council majority and the men and women of the CMPD.

Another interesting sidebar on this issue was that last night several new officers were in the auditorium, learning the ropes of being a "Sergeant-at-arms" during meetings.  Besides Acting Chief Rob Sharpnack, there were at least three other officers in the auditorium at the time.  They showed no reaction to this event, but I found myself wondering what they thought.

What Monahan wants to do with his business is, well, his business.  He cannot, however, expect this act to be viewed positively by the community.  I was very disappointed in him last night.  I remembered St. Patrick's Day - March 17, 2011 - when poor Huy Pham leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall and Monahan - the mayor at the time -  chose to stay at his pub in his kilt to pull beer taps instead of presenting himself at City Hall to see to the well-being of the employees on that tragic day.  Last night was another epic failure of judgment on Monahan's part.


The meeting began positively enough, with presentations to two student groups from Australia.  Mensinger may get this part down one of these days, but he was awkward again last night.

Thirteen individuals spoke during Public Comments, which began at 6:00, as scheduled, and ended at 6:33 - a few minutes ahead of schedule.  Here's a taste of what some of them spoke about:
  • Richard Russell complimented the council on their recent fiscal prudence.
  • Mary Spadoni scolded the City for NOT participating in the recent National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
  • Karl Ahlf decried the shortage of police officers, and mentioned a fight at Monahan's pub.
  • Cindy Black again chided Mensinger for his role in the DG path in Fairview Park.
  • Laurene Keane expressed concern about the apparent conflicting activities regarding Fairview Park - the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee and the pending update of the Master Plan of Parks and Open spaces.
  • Robin Leffler said we should find a way to pay down some of the Unfunded Pension Liability and also opined that private meetings with the Mayor is not the appropriate way to present issues of concern.
  • Planning Commissioner Jeff Mathews used his three minutes to rail about the lawsuit filed by Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, and how it was totally appropriate.  I thought this was curious, since Mathews seldom speaks on anything - especially on the commission.  I thought at the time that perhaps he was reminding the council majority that he was a supporter of theirs - he is a BIG financial supporter - because his request for re-appointment was up for consideration later.  Turned out he was right...
  • Travis Azevedo, a Medical Marijuana supporter, expressed concern about the lack of action on their petition for an election on the subject.
  • Chuck Perry spoke of a recent "walk with the mayor" and regaled us with a story of what a wonderful guy Mensinger is - he said, "I love the guy".  
  • Gay Royer complained again about the traffic on Victoria Street.
  • James Bridges made a rambling comment on a variety of subjects, saying that we "should give these guys a chance", referring to the council.  Bridges relies on public transportation, so Righeimer offered him a ride home if he would stick around until the end.  Bridges declined, to his credit.
  • Beth Refakes wrapped it up by addressing the need for "signal preemption" for emergency vehicles trying to get across Newport Boulevard, the homeless in Lions Park and concern about the displacement of users of the Neighborhood Community Center when the conversion begins to make it a library.
During his time Righeimer praised development in the city - no surprise there.  Mensinger praised the Mesa Verde Classic Golf Tournament, and told it generated $200,000 gross.  If found myself wondering what the net will be.  Katrina Foley also spoke of the golf tournament and asked CEO Tom Hatch to address the Medical Marijuana issue and the potential shortage of meeting rooms.  Sandra Genis reminded the council of Foley's request for a "retreat" for the council, to discuss big issues in general terms, stating that she thought a half-day would be plenty.

Hatch told us that there will be two budget study sessions, on February 10th and 24th, to discuss where we are mid-year.  He also spoke of the recent graduation of three new police officers from the Academy, and mentioned that for the second time in two classes a Costa Mesa officer was class President and top officer.  Sadly, he didn't mention the officer's name, nor the fact that he comes from a law enforcement family.  I guess that's not important.  That seems like a pretty positive story to me.  Regarding the Medical Marijuana issue, he had no information, but said he would get it together and inform the speaker and post it on the City web site Wednesday - today.

The council agreed to shove Public Hearing #2 to the end of the meeting so Monahan could leave.  This, of course, significantly inconvenienced the appellant's team and our staff, but the appellant had a lot on the line, so they were NOT going to complain.  They just stuck around and waited, and waited. 

Two items were pulled from the Consent Calendar but, because the meeting had moved briskly to this point, they were handled immediately instead of being trailed to the end of the meeting.  Public Comments begin at 7:00 by city rule, so the seven minutes that remained until that hour proved to be just right for dispensing with them.

Public Hearing #1, the addition of the BLVD HOTEL to the BIA, took one minute flat and passed on a 5-0 vote.

At 7:05 the council began discussing New Business #1, the authorization for $125,125.00 to an architect to begin preliminary plans for the new library at Lions Park.  The Public Comments on this issue were very interesting.  Fifteen (15) people spoke on the issue - 6 for it and 9 against.  That ratio surprised me.  Most who spoke against the library were actually concerned about the loss of meeting space when the Neighborhood Community Center was shut down for the construction.  None seemed quite convinced by the assurances of council members and staff plans to find sufficient space around the city. 

During the discussion Righeimer, responding to the concerns about adequate meeting space by residents, said, "Call me directly and I'll do what I can to find space."  Once again, he seems to not worry about cutting the staff out of the picture - and it's beginning to show in staff performance.  Finally, at 8:00, the council voted, 5-0, to move forward with contract.

Next came the second-most controversial issue of the evening - the selection of eleven (11) individuals to fill slots on three commissions.  As I said in an earlier post, 47 individual applied for positions, including a few incumbents.  Seven members of the public, including some applicants, stepped up to address their qualifications or to express a view on others.  This is the largest applicant pool I can recall.

The process began with the council members drawing numbered balls for the order of nomination.  Each one, in order, could nominate a person.  If that nomination received a second a vote would be taken.  Then the next council member would nominate, and so on.  The process would continue until all slots on each commission were filled.  Numbers were drawn for each commission selection and, subsequently, re-drawn for the 2-year appointments to the Senior Commission.

First came the Planning Commission.  Sandra Genis had the first choice and selected veteran and engineer Andrea Marr.  Foley seconded, but she was not chosen on a 2-3 vote along gender lines.

Monahan nominated Vice Chair Rob Dickson, who was chosen on a 4-1 vote.  Foley voted NO.

Foley then nominated Parks and Recreation Chairman Byron de Arakal, but he received no second.

Righeimer nominated incumbent (and major campaign contributor) Jeff R. Mathews, who was chosen on a 3-2 vote - along gender lines.

Mensinger nominated recent acolyte Stephan Andranian, who was chosen on a 3-2 vote, also along gender lines.

So, we swapped out Chairman Jim Fitzpatrick - a known council majority sycophant - for someone who is a complete unknown, but has recently shown signs of being another one.

Foley inquired of City Attorney Tom Duarte about the possibility of changing the process of selection, since was clear how the evening was going to go.  He told her it would have to be agendized and any change would be subject to a council majority vote.  Basically, that means there is NO chance for change as long as this council majority exists.

Next came the selection of new Parks and Recreation Commissioners.  New balls were drawn, and Foley had the first choice.  She nominated Jose de la Jara, but received no second.

Monahan nominated Brett Eckles and Mensinger seconded.  Foley inquired whether his selection might create complications because he's a contractor that does business on field issues in the city.  Duarte opined that that would be taken on a case-by-case basis.  Eckles was chosen on a 3-2 vote, again along gender lines.  He is also a member of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, so that seems to be a conflict.  I suspect he may be shifted from a voting member into an advisory role, replacing Dean Abernathy on the committee.  Abernathy chose not to re-apply.  This does potentially make for some further complications for that committee, since Chairman Dr. Richard Mehren resigned at the last meeting.

Genis nominated Lynn Redman for his unique interests - he's a long-time member of one of the community gardens and his son, Eagle Scout Christian Redman, has been doing rehabilitation work in Fairview Park.  Foley seconded, but he was rejected on a 2-3 vote along gender lines.

Righeimer nominated incumbent commissioner Bob Graham, who was chosen on a 5-0 vote.

Mensinger nominated incumbent Chairman Byron de Arakal, who was also chosen on a 5-0 vote.

So, the configuration on the Parks and Recreation Commission changed dramatically with the selection of Eckles - a major proponent of more playing fields.  He's an energetic guy with some good ideas, but activists will probably be paying more attention to the work of this commission now.

Then came the selection of members for the new Senior Commission.  Righeimer opined that there should be more than 5 members - maybe 7.  Mensinger agreed, and said 7-9.  They were pleased with the large number of applicants.  I smiled and thought they were looking for more largess to hand out to supporters.  In the end, it was decided to fill the five slots - three 4-year terms and two 2-year terms, then return with a change to the ordinance to expand the commission later.

Balls were drawn for the four year term slots and Genis again was #1.  She chose Charlene Ashendorf, in my view one of the most highly qualified candidates for this commission, and Foley seconded.  However, she was rejected on a 2-3 vote - along gender lines.

Righeimer nominated Stella Adkins, Mensinger seconded and she was chosen on a 4-1 vote.  Foley voted NO.

Monahan nominated Janet Krochman, Mensinger seconded and she was chosen on a 3-2 vote, along gender lines.

Foley nominated Martha Hernandez, Genis seconded and she was rejected on a 2-3 vote along gender lines.

Mensinger nominated Estancia High School Principal Kirk Bauermeister, who was chosen on a 5-0 vote.

Balls were drawn again for the 2-year term assignments.
Genis nominated former council member Wendy Leece, who was rejected 2-3, along gender lines.

Righeimer nominated Ernie Feeney, Monahan seconded and she was chosen on a 5-0 vote.

The final person selected was John McGlinn who was selected on a 4-1 vote. Monahan voted No.

Foley immediately observed that at least half of the appointees chosen are campaign contributors to Righeimer and Mensinger. 

New Business #3 was the approval of the Mayor's choice for appointments to various boards.  After a short discussion it passed, 5-0.

Foley suggested the council create a Bike and Walkway Committee, which was approved for staff work on a 5-0 vote.  It was decided to leave the Military Affairs Team intact without formal committee designation.

Genis suggested something more be done about Affordable Housing and, during the discussion, Righeimer announced that he's resigning from the Board of Mercy House so he can more fully participate in the discussion of this issue in the City.

Monahan left and, following a short break, the council re-convened at 9:07 to discuss Public Hearing #2, the possible revocation of the conditional use permit for the Replanet operation in the Stater Brothers Market parking lot on Newport Boulevard.  According to City Attorney Greg Palmer, this was a "de novo" proceedings - it meant starting all over.

An hour into the discussion, which included taking court-like testimony from residents just as was the case when the Planning Commission heard this item and revoked the permit, I decided to head home.  I listened to the proceedings on my cell phone driving home, then watched the rest on television.

Despite the fact that the revocation will remove the last commercial recycling entity from our city and create significant discomfort for residents and local market owners alike, after more than three hours of testimony from residents - including several who live nearby the site - and representatives of the appellant and the Grocery Store operators, the council voted, 4-0, to revoke the permit. 

Foley asked for a second vote to direct staff to work with the operator and other interested parties to try to find a proper place, or places, in the city for a recycling site.  The demand is clearly there - that site was the largest, by far, of any the vendor operates in nearby cities.  In the meantime, you'll just have to haul your cans to the markets, who are required to pay you for them or incur a $100 per day fine.  Or, you can visit the recycling center at Orange Coast College, on Adams Avenue.

It was a long night.  The next council meeting is on February 3rd... see you there.

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Blogger zennymoon said...

i call bullshit, can I say that? Can I say that the bias against the police is palpable? Can I say the arrogance and hubris is so obnoxious as to be sickening? Can I say this city is soooo screwed with this team of jerk? If I can't say this just delete me like the council has deleted the residents and their opinions and best interest.

1/21/2015 06:22:00 AM  
Anonymous arthur nern said...

Monahan's doing the wake to tweak CMPD. We civilians will always remember this, just like we will will always remember how he treated the employees after Huy Pham died.

1/21/2015 07:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

So Sandy and Katrina, who were received the most votes in their respective elections, are marginalized by the three-headed elephant.
What is the point of drawing numbers and going through the pretense of being fair about appointing commission members when 3 stooges make all the decisions?
Since the agenda was juggled for Gary's convenience, why not adjust the agenda to allow Sandy and Katrina to leave early when their votes don't matter. Oh, I guess that would mean that they could leave after the pledge of allegiance.

1/21/2015 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I don't agree with Monahan's "decision."

When I see stuff like this I consider that it's a calculated distraction from other things.

So what are Riggy and Mensy doing re developers and other schemes this week??

1/21/2015 07:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Its pretty clear that the ball drawing was simply a show because it meant nothing. It did not create a system that was fair to anyone. Just a show. The councilMEN may have simply just submitted their list. Now we need to watch for conflict and indeed, make sure higher authorities are aware of the situations.

Monahan, indeed deserves a boycott of his business. He is a true embarrassment to this city in every regard. This man that was killed while shooting at our officers, was the most heinous of criminals, being convicted of penetration of a minor. Trying to avoid warrants issued from out of state. I do not believe his live- in girlfriend did not know this. And she put her own child at risk living with him. And Monohan wants to throw a fundraiser for them? I don't know if its alcohol or drugs, but too many brain cells have been killed in this guy's head. I now completely support a boycott of Skosh Monahan's.

1/21/2015 07:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

What a fricking joke that "selection" process was last night! The CCM with their heavy theatrical sighs and claiming it's such a difficult choice to make with all the great applicants, yet stacked the PC and P&R with their campaign contributors, once again, over the qualified applicants. Absolutely shameful and sickening. And Monahan is the slimiest of slimy bottom feeders hosting a wake for his friend, a pedophile. It's nothing but a big f you to our pd under the guise of helping this criminal's family. The girlfriend must be a real peach putting her child in direct contact with her pedophile boyfriend! I agree that the greasy slimeball's dive should be stayed away from, if not because of his lack of character, then because of the disgusting code violations found in his restaurant.

1/21/2015 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Stephan Andranian will tow the Righeimer/developer/ OC GOP line just fine.
That's why he was chosen. He may however, be the first Riggy appointee to the Planning Commission who actually knows something about CEQA before serving his term. We shall see.
The rest of the council meeting was more of the same ramrodding in Riggy's agenda via Mensy and the boys. Wendy and Sandy had no chance.
The disgusting move to have a wake for a child rapist who tried to gun down two of our CMP officers show how far down the moral and ethical ladder Gary has slid.
He can contribute money to the girlfriend and poor child left behind. He doesn't need to celebrate this guy's life!!

1/21/2015 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Lesson learned - if you want to be on a commission, write lots of comments on Daily Pilot articles heaping praise on Jim and Steve, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. That is more important than any expertise you may bring to the committee. "Thank you, Mayors Righeimer and Messinger for making the sun come up this morning. You are awesome! The strong brand is moving forward." Campaign donations may help, too.

1/21/2015 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Did anyone find out last night who got the free Mac Book Air for Christmas at our expense?

I agree with the commenter above, watch Rig and Mens. They will take advantage of diversionary tactics.

1/21/2015 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

If this wake takes place, we are planning a demonstration in support of CMPD at the same time and place. A peaceable protest supporting our officers...further info to be announced..peace out

1/21/2015 07:32:00 PM  
Anonymous now is the time said...

Of all the people in this world to hold a "celebration of life" for, Mr. Monahan picks a man who from most accounts appeared to have had little if any regard for others physical, emotional or financial. And all due respect for what he thinks he is doing, the time for Mr. Trotter to have acknowledged the trauma a police officer experiences would have been on Law Enforcement Appreciation day.
On another note, what are the 3 male council members afraid of in not approving any of the nominations by the women council members? In particular, Wendy Leece would make an awesome representative for members of the community on any committee. Her passion is to stand up for and do what is right Obvious fear on the side of the men.

1/22/2015 09:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Well, Trotter and Fitzpatrick are planning to attend the celebration of the pedophile's life. Sure doesn't say much for their character, does it? Or maybe it speaks volumes. I need a shower after typing their names.

1/22/2015 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...


Sandy and Katrina.
Wendy was an outstanding CM Councilwoman
who always stood up for us, the residents of CM.
Like Sandy and Katrina, she was also marginalized and ignored by the councilboys who demand respect from others yet have none for the CM Councilwomen, our excellent CMP officers and us, the residents.

1/23/2015 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger zennymoon said...

Just a reminder...A RALLY for our officers is being held Wed. Jan. 28 4 pm...this will be held in front of Monahans on NB BLvd, in conjunction with his wake for Jay Pincus who tried to kill two of our officers. Monacan's in your statement to our officers is disrespect. Please join us and prove to our officers the community supports their efforts....

1/24/2015 10:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Muffin Top Bob said...

Wouldn't it be great when Monsham calls 911 for the police to come and break up the rally, that he hears that there are no officers available, just like every other resident hears on a daily basis.

1/24/2015 10:40:00 PM  

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