Spirited Discussions Marked Costa Mesa Feet To The Fire Forum
Well, we could almost guarantee that the Costa Mesa Feet To The Fire Forum last night - the 11th in the series so far - would be just a little more spirited than the Newport Beach event the evening before. It was. And, it played to a crowd much larger than Wednesday night's gathering. Last night I'm estimating the number of people in the audience to be around 175 or so. Once again the heavy lifting on the reporting was done by another of those bright, young reporters from the Daily Pilot. Luke Money covered the event for the Daily Pilot. You can read his article HERE.
The actual forum was preceded by a "meet and greet" opportunity outside the auditorium. Here are a few random images from that hour-long opportunity to gather literature and schmooze with would-be politicians and others.
Again, Barbara Venezia and her co-moderator, Tom Johnson, did a good job of keeping the questions and answers moving. Prior to the actual taping of the event Venezia laid down the ground rules - clapping and cheering was OK but shouting-out and interrupting the program was not. And, she reminded us that OCC had security on hand to escort unruly audience members out of the venue if necessary. I smiled.
SIX OF THE SEVEN CANDIDATES ATTENDED
The panel of candidates included Jay Humphrey, John Stephens, Sandy Genis, Lee Ramos, Allan Mansoor and Steve Mensinger. I list them in that order since that's how they appeard on stage. However, as it turned out, there was a natural adverserial relationship established early-on, pitting the first three against the other three. Money didn't talk about that. Oh, yes.. candidate Al Melone - the Dog Park guy - was invited to participate but opted out. Instead, he sat near the back of the auditorium and watched with the rest of us. It's a shame he chose to run again - votes have proven to be precious in the past two elections and his mere presence on the ballot will suck up a few. Not many, but a few.
NOT QUITE AN EVEN MIX
And, the mix of fans in the audience was interesting. Early in the forum Humphrey, Stephens and Genis seemed to evoke the most enthusiastic response from the audience. Ramos, Mansoor and Mensinger certainly received applause from the crowd, but it wasn't as loud. Later that faction ramped it up and, while their numbers seemed smaller, they made much more noise. It was fun. At one point, as the crowd cheered and clapped a response not favorable to his position, Mensinger remarked that it was just like a council meeting. He doesn't like criticizm.
WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES - AND ATTACKS
As mentioned in Money's article, the range of issues discussed was broad, and they evoked some interesting reactions. Mensinger, Mansoor and Ramos each chose to attack Genis and Humphrey on issues, trying to tie their former tenure on the council to decisions made that they said were problems. Ramos was so ham-handed that he couldn't pull it off. None of the attacks were successful.
STEVE, THE INTERRUPTER
Mensinger interrupted Genis a couple times - just as he does on the dais. She had to remind him he "was not the mayor" on the stage. I smiled. He just can't help himself. As others have said, Donald Trump's presence in the political arena seems to have coarsened political discourse, even down here at the local level.
RAMOS, ER, DUH...
Some general impressions... Ramos just didn't seem to have it figured out. His comments and answers to questions seemed lethargic and his points seemed almost irrelevant to the issues.
CAN'T GRASP MULTIPLE ISSUES
Mansoor apparently continues with his characteristic of getting one issue locked in his skull and attempts to tie everything else back to it. Last night it was "motels". Apparently, in his mind, there is no problem in the city that is not tied to motels. He has not gotten any smarter since he last served on the council - except that he married a lovely woman who has given him two beautiful children, all of whom were in attendance last night. It's going to be very interesting to see how he campaigns this time around. From what I saw, he's tightly locked-in with the Costa Mesa Public Square mob, so we will see how that plays out.
STEVE BEING STEVE
Mensinger was just - how did his wife put it when he was first sworn-in? - "Just Steve being Steve". He reminded us that, under the current regime, more than 60 miles of roads have been paved, lots of curbs and gutters have been replaced and alleys renovated. When the discussion turned to police staffing, and the relationship with the police association, he came unglued. He angrily denounced Humphrey for his criticizm of the lawsuit Mensinger and his pal, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer (who was in the audience) filed against the police association. It was a low spot in the program.
JAY WAS STEADY
Humphrey was steady with his responses and responded respectfully.
SANDY'S STILL SMART
Genis continues to demonstrate why she's such a strong, positive, intelligent force on the council.
STEPHENS WAS STRONG
Stephens probably looked the best of any of the candidates. His experience as a lawyer has prepared him for the jousting. He knows how to negotiate and would be a very valuable presence on the dais.
OPEN MOUTH, INSERT FOOT
During the discussion Ramos made the unfortunate reference to "your union pals" to Stephens. He then did a backward tap dance, trying to extricate himself from that mess... not very effectively.
Issues discussed included the Smart Growth Initiative; Banning Ranch; marijuana; Prop. 57, the latest boneheaded plan coming out of Sacramento to put more convicted criminals back on the streets; Public Safety staffing; Staffing in general; Unfunded Pension Liability; rehab homes; ending daylight savings time.
NBTV AND KOCI WILL PROVIDE COVERAGE
I'm not going to try to regurgitate every word spoken in the 100 minutes of the meeting. You'll be able to watch (and hear) it in context yourselves when Newport Beach Television finishes the production and provides it to Venezia for placement on YouTube and on her site, http://www.feet2thefireforum.com/. And, KOCI, 101.5 FM will be broadcasting the audio feed soon. When the specifics of the video and audio products are available I'll post about them. And, Barry Friedland of Costa Mesa Brief was at the event and, I suspect, will produce his version for public consumption within the next day or so at his Costa Mesa Brief YouTube channel. You will recall that earlier this year Costa Mesa Television was forbidden to cover any of the candidate forums, even though it has a long tradition of doing them, and doing them very well. I guess Mensinger and Righeimer didn't want stupidity and falsehoods archived in city records for posterity.
STEVE MAKING IT UP AS HE GOES ALONG
During the discussion of police staffing Mensinger told us that we should be back up to authorized strength - either 136 or 140, depending on which number you want to believe - in "6 months to a year". Well, right now they're down to just over 100 and, as Genis reminded us, even if we COULD hire 40 more cops quickly from the academies, we don't have enough training officers to manage that influx. Mensinger was just blowing smoke.
FORGOT ABOUT HUY PHAM
Similarly, when talking about the staff shrinkage since he's been on the council - it's gone from around 605 employees to 440 - he said, "we didn't lay off a single person". He conveniently forgot that as soon as he joined the council, he, Righeimer and Gary Monahan decided to lay off over 200 "miscellaneous" employees - and that fiasco resulted in a lawsuit and the death of Huy Pham, a young maintanence worker who leaped to his death from the City Hall roof.
THIS IS IT FOR STEVE...
Before the meeting Mensinger sought me out to inquire about my health, so we chatted a little. He told me he's not attending the remaining two other scheduled candidate forums - next week with the Mesa Verde, Inc. organization and in October with the Eastside Neighbors group. He cited a schedule conflict with the first and just said flat out that he won't go the Eastside event. Instead, he plans to have a series of "coffees" to spread his message - including one right across the street from my house. Well, that brightened up my day. Maybe I can get the valet parking concession for all the Ferraris and Maseratis driven by his developer-buddies that will show up.
...AND APPARENTLY HIS PALS, TOO
Later I was told that neither Mensinger, Mansoor nor Ramos will attend the remaining forums. If that's the case, what does that tell the voters of this city? Are these men afraid to face voters and answer questions about their policies and plans? If so, why? If true, it sure does reek of political cowardice. I hope they change their minds. The voters deserve to learn more about them and their views in a public forum. I've heard a rumor about a proposed Costa Mesa Public Square forum, but it's only that - a rumor. I'm not on their mailing list.
IT'S GONNA BE A LONG FEW MONTHS
So, off we go as the campaign season is officially launched. We have seven candidates on the ballot and eight initiatives to sort out, too. And, that doesn't count the bogus "advisory" measure the Mesa Water District is placing on the ballot to test the communities feeling about their proposed hostile takeover of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District nor the state-wide recreational marijuana issue. Yikes!