Short Meeting - No Surprises
The Costa Mesa City Council meeting Tuesday night ran only until just after 8:00 p.m. and, unfortunately, didn't have any surprises. That doesn't mean it didn't have some noteworthy moments, though. This meeting, as has been the case for most meetings for the past five years, was peppered with political power plays - again, no surprise.
HONORING KIRK MCINTOSH
It began on a very positive note, with the presentation of the Mayor's Award to Kirk McIntosh, father of the Daily Pilot Cup youth soccer event. The most recent event just wrapped up last weekend - another success.
Fifteen individuals spoke during Public Comments - one was held over until the very end of the meeting.
The council chambers was infested with denizens of the inaccurately named Costa Mesa Public Square Facebook page, who hunkered down all together in a row. Several of those spoke, including the notorious Doug Vogel, Shannon Bales, Julie Fowler and Louise Estrada. Mercurio sat there like a queen bee in the midst of the group. Those who follow Facebook and Nextdoor will find those names to be familiar. They had a shared theme, which made me chuckle as each delivered a slightly different version. One common thread was some heavy-duty sucking up to the council majority, overlayed with a call for more civility, which was pretty funny considering some of their posts on social media over the past several months.
Vogel criticized "blogs" - which is me.
Bales, who identified himself as a former war crimes investigator, described folks who spoke before the council as cyber bullies and supporters of the council minority - Katrina Foley and Sandra Genis.
Fowler said she was there to help, then cited "petty shenanigans" by a small group of the council minority. Her whining was very familiar.
Estrada - a new face - complained about "council member behavior" - aimed directly at Foley - and spent most of her three minutes speaking to the audience, not the council. Finally, very near the end of her time, Mayor Steve Mensinger finally asked her to address the council. He's been much quicker with those offering critical comments of the council majority in the past. She continued to criticize those who speak against the council majority.
PROTECT OPEN SPACE
Alex Reich urged the council to protect our open spaces, citing the history of coastal parts of Los Angeles County which experienced rampant development.
ESTANCIA FREEDOM WALL
Teresa Drain spoke of the recent dedication of the Estancia High School Freedom Wall and of the Memorial Day service at our local cemetery.
COUNTING HOOKERS AND A TOWN HALL
Mary Spadoni presented some recently-released crime numbers - the arrests for prostitution - and complained that the CMPD was unwilling or unable to present location of the arrests. She also invited viewers to attend a town hall Thursday evening at the Neighborhood Community Center at which many of the current hot-button issues will be discussed. Those include the Smart Growth Initiative, the Fairview Park Initiative, Banning Ranch and more.
MULTIPLE ISSUES BY BETH
Beth Refakes spoke about the sparsely-attended Community Budget meeting, thanked Munoz, the recent Open Space Meeting and observed that she fears the Women's Club is not going to get fair market value for their building and wondered if they are being treated fairly.
Long time resident Chuck Perry again stepped up to praise the council, thank Ernesto Munoz and to tell us of a conversation he had with automobile dealer Bob Robins. It was unclear of the purpose, but it was nice to know, I guess.
SHARKS CIRCLING THE CITY
Another speaker observed the large numbers of young people in the audience and expressed great pleasure that more were getting involved. She then described Costa Mesa as being circled by sharks, referring to the council majority, developers, rehab home and prison realignment as the sharks. She also bemoaned a perceived drop in house values in Eastside Costa Mesa of 17.6% according to a recent Orange County Register article.
During Council Member Comments Righeimer - who pretended he hadn't had anything to say - launched off in a bit of pontification directed at the young people in the audience, and chided speakers. He referred to departing Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz as his "favorite Nicaraguan" and told us that he went to the high school in Illinois where Righeimer's father taught. He also cited the recent arrests of two youths for their part in the Trump rally riots.
Mensinger asked CEO Tom Hatch to have Assistant CEO Rick Francis bring back a report on homelessness at the next council meeting. In response to an earlier observation by a speaker that they knew of someone with a direct email pipeline to the council majority, so they didn't bother coming to council to speak, Mensinger griped that they should attend his Meet The Mayor events or walk the city streets with him and his entourage. He observed that Munoz has left an indelible mark on the city - explaining that he had spent $83 million on municipal projects in the past four years - much of which was grant money.
Foley spoke of the Open Space Master Plan Workshop and referred to the next one Thursday evening. She also hoped for more new voices in public discourse - referring to the large number of young people in the room. She asked Hatch to look into the contract for Bus Shelters - she had recently used public transportation and found the shelters in deplorable condition. She then observed that Social Media was hurting people and hoped folks would throttle back the rhetoric.
Genis complimented all involved on a very successful Fish Fry. She complimented the city on the current street sweepers, but bemoaned the fact that streets are not getting swept when cars are parked. She reminded us that the weekly Register real estate reports are just snapshots and are less relevant than annual numbers. She also thanked Munoz for his service. She also reminded the mayor that they have a full agenda for the next couple meetings, so she suggested the homeless report he asked for be shoved out to another meeting - sometime in July. She also asked for more civility, but then observed the level of rancorous commentary on Facebook. One earlier speaker had complained about her not responding to his inquiries and she reminded him that she would not be responding to vilification on social media sites, and that he actually wanted information he should contact her through official channels.
Gary Monahan had nothing to say, but Mensinger plugged his gin mill anyhow.
HATCH LAUDS MUNOZ
Hatch then spent a few minutes honoring Munoz, citing his prodigious skill acquiring grant money for city projects. He said under his guidance Costa Mesa is the top grant-receiving city in Orange County by far. He cited his creativity - the Fairview Park ponds and the Lions Park drainage solution were just two mentioned. And, he referred to Munoz as the Number One Hardest Working Employee in the city. Munoz spoke, thanking Hatch, the council, the city staff and his personal staff. He's a good man and will, indeed, be missed.
FOUR ITEMS PULLED FROM CONSENT CALENDAR
Next came the Consent Calendar. Four items were pulled for later discussion. It was now 7:20, so the meeting was moving right along.
BIA RE-AUTHORIZATION - DON'T BLINK!
Public Hearing #1, Public Affairs Manager Dan Baker's presentation of the reauthorization of the Business Improvement Association, took only two minutes to present and pass on a 5-0 vote.
NEW PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSIONER
Next came the fun item of the evening, New Business #1 - the selection of a new Parks and Recreation Commissioner from the dozen applicants who had expressed interest. One applicant, Rachael Correll, spoke to present her credentials and interest.
FOLEY NOMINATES ERSOYLU
The council members drew numbers from an envelope to determine the order of nomination. Katrina Foley was #1 and nominated Dr. Leah Ersoylu - perhaps the most academically qualified of the group and a current member of the Bikeways and Walkability Committee. Genis seconded her motion. The vote was 2-3, with the majority voting no.
MONAHAN NOMINATES MERCURIO
Next up was Monahan, who nominated the least qualified person on the roster - Costa Mesa Public Square Iron-fisted Queen Bee Julie Mercurio and major council majority supporter. Mensinger seconded it and the vote was 3-2, with Genis and Foley voting NO. So, as anticipated, pure political power showed itself in an unabashed in-your-face selection of an unqualified person for an influential commission position. Her "extensive" qualification are shown below Monahan's photo.
PLACING ISSUES ON THE BALLOT
The final two items on the agenda, although routine and required, had some interesting politically-charged moments.
RIGHEIMER IN CONTROL...
New Business #2 was the item submitting two medical marijuana ordinances to the ballot in November. The council had no choice in this matter, but the individual resolutions required provided an opportunity for political posturing. The first two, which specifically authorized the placement on the ballot of the two individual issues and the third, requesting the Board of Supervisors to consolidate a General Municipal election in November, passed on a 4-0 vote - Mensinger had stepped away. The 6th, authorizing filing of rebuttal arguments, passed 5-0. Items #4 and #5 were identical issues - the authorization of written arguments for or against the issues. Righeimer suggested that he and Foley collaborate to write the argument against - she declined. So, Righeimer decided that he would write it himself and collaborate with other council members as he saw fit. Those votes passed, 5-0.
New Business #3, the same process for the so-called Smart Growth Initiative, had three resolutions to consider. The first two were placement of this issue on the general election ballot and the consolidation request to the Board of Supervisors, as above. They passed, 5-0. Righeimer then took the helm again and again decided he and Foley should collaborate on the argument against. She declined so he, again, decided he would write the argument and seek whatever help he felt necessary from other council members. It passed 5-0.
Next came the Consent Calendar items trailed to the end - a bogus scheme to discourage public partipation, which worked again this evening.
#2, the Warrant, was pulled by someone who didn't wait around, so it passed, 5-0.
17TH STREET WIDENING
#8, the 17th Street widening project, was pulled by Jay Humphrey, who asked about the gathering of right-of-way from property owners and asked if they'd been contacted. Foley asked Munoz, who replied that they had not because this action authorizes the contract with a consultant, who will then coordinate that activity. The item passed, 5-0.
Item #13 was erroneously pulled by Anna Vrska and passed, 5-0.
SHUTTING DOWN SECOND MEETING OF AUGUST - FOREVER!
Nobody stayed for this item so Item #14 - the permanent cancellation of the second council meeting in August, passed , 5-0.
PROBLEMS WITH PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS
Then the remaining card for Public Comments that had been trailed to the end was called. Anna Vrska stepped up to complain about the delays getting public records requests fulfilled. She cited the rules governing such submissions and observed that the exemptions being applied to many of hers were overly-broad. She asked for specific information.
RIGHEIMER FLEXED HIS MUSCLES TO INTIMIDATE - AGAIN
Just before the meeting ended Righeimer flexed his muscles again and directed the City Clerk to provide a report on how many public record requests Vrska had asked for and the cost of providing them. It's clear that this information will likely be used at a future meeting to intimidate her and others from requesting such information. Such is life in the City of Costa Mesa under this dictatorial regime. How very sad for us all.