Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Brief, But Contentious, Council Meeting

The Costa Mesa City Council met for one of the shortest meetings in recent memory Tuesday night, but that doesn't mean it was without its dramatic moments.

It began on a high note when Mayor Steve Mensinger, perhaps the weakest reader we've had up there in some time, presented his latest Mayor's Award to Christine Fabiani, the driving force behind Knots Of Love, the organization which knits and distributes hats to thousands of people each year suffering from debilitating diseases like cancer.  According to Ms. Fabiani, they create over 4,000 knit caps per month and have distributed over 260,000 so far through more than 560 care centers and doctor's offices around the country.  Shown here are city staffers, each in a hat.
Ten people spoke during Public Comments:
Ralph Taboada, Chairman of the Bikeways and Walkability Committee and the Pension Oversight Committee, spoke to the council about re-adjusting their budget priorities to, in his words, ratchet-back spending on things like sports fields.  He also expressed concern about the temperatures on the artificial turf fields that are in the planning stages for the Jack Hammett Sports Complex.  He also expressed extreme disappointment when no council quorum showed up for the recent Library Study Session.

Gay Royer expressed concern about what she referred to as the "Victoria Freeway" - the stretch of westside roadway on which traffic consistently runs too fast.  She was concerned about the need for a signal at Wilson and Pomona and the entrances to Victoria that may be closed to walk/bike through traffic.

Reggie Mundakis observed that the Fair Board will meet Thursday to discuss the Arlington Drive Bioswale and there still had been no public outreach.

Beth Refakes reminded us for the last time about the candy drive for the children of the 1/5 Marines at Camp Pendleton.  Individually wrapped candy may be placed in the foot locker in the City Hall Lobby the rest of this week before the Military Affairs Team delivers it to Camp Pendleton next week.

An anonymous speaker expressed concern about the item on the agenda regarding appeals that was pulled earlier in the day.  She opined that the money should be refunded and the new policy - whatever that might be - should include provisions for refunds.

Cindy Black, observing about the presentation to the folks from Knots Of Love, told us of two products that, theoretically, help an ill person retain their hair.

Dr. Nina Reich spoke on the recently passed CRONE act, which requires more transparency in public contracting for cities which use the COIN process.  She spoke of the protest planned Thursday evening in front of the Costa Mesa Motor Inn to remind the public of the need for affordable housing.  She spoke of meeting with CEO Tom Hatch regarding the removal of bus shelters.

Chuck Perry praised the council for all the "wonderful" housing that is being built throughout the city.  He complained about a traffic backup at the In N Out Burger store on Harbor Blvd and encouraged the council to go full speed ahead on roadwork.  He also told us, responding to an earlier speaker's concern about hot artificial turf, that when it gets too hot at Estancia's stadium field they just turn on the sprinklers.  Hmmm... artificial turf and sprinkler... what's wrong with that picture?

Wendy Leece said she was thankful for the 1st Amendment to the constitution which guarantees free speech and also for the Freedom of Information Act, through which she acquired information on Fire Safety.  She wondered about the status of the 17-point plan approved more than two years ago.  She also demanded an apology from Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer for his "slanderous" comments from the dais about her at the last council meeting.  (She received none).

Former employee Steve White - who was arrested for stealing $5.00 worth of campaign signs, lost his job, was taken to trial and found not guilty -  stepped up again and asked the council for some help sorting out the events of 91101 in a long, disjointed comment.

Righeimer tried to explain that the budget process is deliberative and the council allocates the funds as they see fit.  He then spoke about several new developments that he thought were just great.

Mensinger told us that 8 people joined him in his most recent waddle around town, including one person who bought a place at Superior Point, the development at the corner of Superior and 17th Street, who he quoted as saying, "I sometimes wonder why people criticize where I live and why we can't criticize where they live".  I thought that was peculiar, but then Mensinger went on to say himself, not quoting anyone else, "I think we all need to understand we may not like what we see, but that may be something that somebody else wants to live in and I think we ought to respect that because it is somebody's home."  Those words would come back to haunt him in a minute or two.  He asked Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz to check on the traffic light at Wilson and Pomona.  He also asked Hatch to have Police Chief Rob Sharpnack to talk about some specific crime mapping at the next council meeting.  He observed that, "as the mayor pro tem says, the city is 'who you attract'".  Anyhow, he went on to describe the vagrants hiding in the bushes along the Joann Street bike trail and defecating on the sidewalk..

Katrina Foley went next and began by hoisting Mensinger on his own petard by quoting his comment exactly and asked HIM to remember his own words when we talk about housing where HE might not like to live, but it is somebody else's home - like motels, for example.  I smiled.

She asked Munoz about the St. Claire Street Speed Bumps and expressed concern, too, about the Victoria Street openings that will soon be closed.  She expressed concern about the "noticing" process, since it seemed that many residents who have children that use those openings in the walls along Victoria Street received NO notice.  Munoz will be sure noticing occurs throughout the entire affected neighborhood and, at Foley's request, will copy the principal of Victoria Elementary school and Dr. Kirk Bauermeister at the NMUSD, too.  She also asked about the Arlington Drive Bioswale and was told that there will be a presentation made to the Fair Board on Thursday at their meeting that begins at 9:00 a.m.

She also requested of Hatch a report As Soon As Possible on job/housing balancing in the city.  She also expressed concern about the issue raised by Leece concerning the implementation of the 17 point Fire Department plan and asked for a report on that, too.

Then she asked for ALL communications between Mayor Mensinger, Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer and the staff with ANY developers regarding affordable housing.  She said we talk about it a lot, but it seems to just be all talk.

Sandra Genis congratulated the folks in Halecrest for another successful chili cook-off, which she described as a great community event.  She also congratulated those responsible for the Scarecrow Festival last weekend at Fairview Park.  She spoke about a couple of the items on the Consent Calendar, Item 4, the cattail removal, wanting to be sure all appropriate agencies would be involved to avoid any intergovernmental conflicts/complications; and the #6, the Harbor Blvd. medians, and expressed a strong desire for community outreach.  She expressed a view that, regarding the Arlington Drive Bioswale, the Fairgrounds Equestrian groups felt un-involved.

She apologized to all for the mess up with the Library Study Session, and expressed the opinion that the funding mechanisms should not be considered in a vacuum, and cited the General Plan process as an example of "hodge-podge".  She expressed concern for the "ongoing sustainability of our community".  She also expressed concern for the significant loss of affordable housing, at which Righeimer attempted to challenge her definition of affordable housing, twice.

Gary Monahan used his time to 1) promote the weekend "harvest festival" at his church, St. Joachims; 2) promote a fundraiser at his own restaurant for Newport Harbor High School Dance; 3) to wish everyone a Happy Halloween and 4) to make a feeble attempt to get Mensinger to wear a Notre Dame visor because they whipped USC last weekend.  Mensinger weaseled out of it.

CEO Tom Hatch had no report.  I found myself wondering how that is possible, since there were many items previously mentioned that he could, and probably should, have responded to.  Then again, he has been criticized in the past by the council majority for talking too much during meetings.  One more casualty in the free speech wars...

Four items were pulled for separate discussion - #4, #5, #6 and #7.
Because we were still just before 7:00 p.m., Public Hearings, by council rules, may not begin until that time.  So, Consent Calendar item #4 was discussed.  This is the item about removing cattails from Fairview Park.  A lengthy discussion took place involving what appears to be an increase in mosquitoes as a result of the ponds at the north end of the park.  Genis expressed concern not only for West Nile Virus, but for Yellow Fever, too.  That got our attention.  Munoz told us that proper maintanence had been missed last year in the tiny window available because of the nesting season.  He assured us that this year this process would do the trick to help avoid standing water where mosquitoes breed.  One speaker, Mary Hanna (sp?) complained that she can no longer sit in their back yard because of flying critters - she thinks mosquitoes, but no-see-ums were also mentioned.

At 7:20 the first Public Hearing commenced - the extension of the development agreement for the Segerstrom Town Center project for another 20 years, to 2035.  Most in the auditorium expected this one to move forward with no problems, but that was before Righeimer got his claws into this process.  Apparently the staff has been working with the Segerstrom folks for a couple years on this request.  The economic downturn delayed any progress on this project for several years, but now they are finally getting back to it, but it won't be a quick project, just as all their other projects have taken time to fully flesh-out and build.  Apparently Righeimer has met with the Segerstroms and told them that he wasn't interested in stretching this process out 20 years - he wanted 10 years in which they could show 30% completion of the project, then an automatic 5 year extension if necessary!

When Justin McCusker, the Segerstrom representative, came up to speak he concurred with the change.  I don't know what was in his head, but I'm thinking this was NOT what he wanted.  Foley then flat-out asked him if he would prefer the 20 year time frame to complete a proper project, and he said yes.  Righeimer pushed back with his 10/5 scheme.  Foley asked the staff when they first heard of this change and was told "just now"!  Righeimer used as his excuse that he didn't want other developers to come ask for 20 years to complete a project - that he wanted the Segerstroms treated just like everyone else.  Well, the Segerstroms ARE NOT like everyone else!  Through their vision and execution of outstanding projects - South Coast Plaza, the Performing Arts Center, for example - not only have they put Costa Mesa on the map in a very positive way, but the sales tax dollars generated by South Coast Plaza keep this city alive.

Righeimer made a motion for his 10/5 scheme.  Foley made a substitute motion for the original staff recommendation, which was voted down, 2-3, with Foley and Genis voting for it.  When the vote was then taken on the original motion it passed, 5-0, with neigher Foley nor Genis wanting to quash the project.  It was obvious this was just Righeimer flexing his muscles - to show everyone in the room that he was the boss.  It made me want to puke!

Public Hearing #2, the vacation of right-of-way at 752 West 19th Street, began at 7:32 p.m.  Two speakers, Teresa Drain and Ralph Taboada, expressed concern that giving up this chunk of land on the corner might eliminate a spot useful for the bikeabililty crowd.  Taboada asked that it be put off for a few months, until the Bikeway and Walkability Committee had completed their work, since this was on a logical bikeway.

Robert Gibson, who described himself as an "investor in the project" - we presume he meant the one adjacent to the right-of-way in question - cited the unusability of that cite for bike purposes because nearby properties encroached on what might have been bikeways.  The item passed on a 3-2 vote, with Genis and Foley voting no.

The trailed Consent Calendar items were then considered.  Righeimer had pulled #5 to have a correction made on a map that was part of the package.  It passed, 5-0.

Item #6, the Harbor Blvd Medians between Wilson and 19th Street revolved around concerns that the left turn restrictions that would be imposed on the traffic might drive small mom-and-pop businesses out of town.  Munoz told the council that we were "light years away" from major decisions on this issue and that significant public outreach will happen as part of the process.  Genis asked that the work include a new traffic study.  The item passed, 5-0.

Item #7, involving applications for comprehensive transportation funding, was challenged by residents Jay Humphrey and Cindy Black because they were concerned about the taking of private lands via eminent domain.  Nobody really answered that question and the vote passed, 4-1, with Foley voting no.

And the meeting ended at 7:55 p.m.!  Yea!


To use a Righeimerism, my "take away" from this short meeting was that Righeimer continues to dominate the discussion of important issues and seems not to care at all what the women who form the minority on the council think - about anything.  He knows he's got the votes in his pocket, so he can spring something like that new Segerstrom scheme on them at the last moment without worrying about having to "sell it" - it's already bought and paid for.

Earlier in the day Tuesday an acquaintance reminded me of a column then-Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry wrote for the Orange County Register on November 14, 2013 in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, which you can read in its entirety HERE.

In that column Curry quoted passages from Kennedy's book, Profiles In Courage.  Kennedy quoted great Americans like John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster, to name but two and cited the common theme - the need to compromise.  I'll let you read the column yourself, but it ends with the following passage by Curry:  " is good for us to remember President Kennedy's words and the examples of great senators who served the higher purpose of America rather than their own narrow political agendas.  Compromise is not a dirty word; it is the required element of functioning government."

Having watched this City Council, led by Jim Righeimer, in action for more than five years, it is clear that compromise is an alien concept in our city these days, which is why we have in our city a non-functioning government, where special interests and ignorant, arrogant, self-serving vindictiveness is the order of the day.  From the 200 layoff notices and Huy Pham; through two (2) failed bogus charter schemes; to suing the men and women of the CMPD; to the disastrous 60th Anniversary debacle; to the loss of more than 50 seasoned, senior police officers and on and on and on.  How very sad for us all.

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Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

The RIGmeister is a major sociopath, plain and conscience, no morals or ethics to get in his way. He must win and get what he wants at any and all cost, no matter what, no matter who gets thrown under his steamroller, with no thought or care at all as to the consequences of his and his CCM's actions.

10/21/2015 08:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Jim's last minute motion to change the timeline on the Segerstrom project is reminiscent of Steve's last minute change to the budget, taking funds from one project to spend on another - redoing the medians near his home. You can't tell me they don't come up with these things in advance. It's like having a 2 person city council with one head - Gary's not there for any purpose than to provide the 3rd vote.

10/21/2015 09:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Xyn Bohemia said...

does anyone else find it disappointing that the person with the seemingly deciding vote on all issues in costa mesa is more interested in football and self promotion than in what is actually going on in his city? remember the "im the mayor" television ads for his restaurant a few years ago?

i swear every time i read about the decisions being made for the city i call home, i lose a couple of IQ points.

10/21/2015 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Gary can't be the deciding vote because everything is already decided - by Jim and his shotcallers higher up in the political hierarchy. Gary is more of a seat-filler.

10/21/2015 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Why does Righeimer hate Costa Mesa so much?

10/21/2015 08:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

Just for clarification, the space that the city vacated IS USEABLE. It is useable as a "hub" adjacent to busy corridors, heavily used by bicycles, walkers and skateboarders. This area is usable as an area similar to the hub at Harbor Blvd. and the Joann Bike Trail.

The majority wants this area to be "hip" and the HDR areas to be walkable. A hub with a bike rack or lockers, a bench or a shade tree would be an added benefit to their plans.

I did NOT suggest that it be used as a bike path. Monahan and the Developer heard it wrong - or were just too anxious to shut down any ideas other than giving the land away for free to the developer.

10/22/2015 02:51:00 PM  

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