MAYOR'S AWARD TO BOWLEY
Last night the Costa Mesa City Council meeting, from which Councilwoman Katrina Foley
was absent, began on a very positive note with the bestowing of the Mayor's Award upon Gordon Bowley,
long time municipal leader and a man who "makes things happen".
CLOSING IN MEMORY OF FARIBA
At the end Mensinger then awkwardly closed the meeting in honor of City Engineer Fariba Fazeli, a lovely, highly competent and professional woman, who passed away last week after a battle with cancer.
During Public Comments twenty (20) members of the public stepped up to express concerns about a variety of issues.
expressed concern about the future of the Community Garden at Harbor and Hamilton because of the pending development that, under current plans, will bend around the garden.
Dave and Kathy Coffman
both expressed concern for community safety due to the large number of transients. Each relayed frightening first-person accounts.
is concerned about the roadway damage caused by construction along Placentia on the Westside.
relayed to the council her concern for what appears to be the unauthorized modification of noise restrictions at the Orange County Fair and Event Center.
Dr. Richard Mehren
spoke about the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance and their signature drive to place an initiative to protect Fairview Park on the November ballot.
reminded us of a charity pancake feed at IHOP.
again reminded us of the toy/candy drive for the Easter Eggstravaganza for the children of the 1/5 Marines. The collection will continue until March 18th. She also expressed concern for the readability of the new monument sign at the termimus of the 55 Freeway.
praised the council for the demolition of the "eyesore" at Harbor and Hamilton, the ongoing improvement of alleys, the development near the Boys and Girls Club and expressed concern for the Homeless problem
praised the council for "all the good they're doing". She particularly focused on the Homeless issue, praising Assistant CEO Rick Francis
and his Network for Homeless Solutions for making great progress. She gave a backhand to the folks who regularly attend meetings, indicating that others, like herself, have actual lives and families to attend to so they cannot attend meetings. Did I mention she's one of the denizens of the Costa Mesa Public Square who trolls other sites? No? Did I mention she attended the meeting with the High Priestess of the CMPS, Julie Mercurio
expressed great concern about the conditions and service at the Humane Society, and cited Newport Beach's problems with that facility. She asked that the staff take another look at our agreement with the organization.
echoed Mundakis' concern about the noise from the Fairgrounds and also spoke of the Smart Growth Initiative, indicating he was looking forward to the next meeting when it would be presented to the council for action.
offered critical commentary about national politics and then re-aimed his thoughts toward our local politicians.
presented evidence of the failure of the operators of the re-built auto dealership near her home to fulfill their committment regarding lighting spillover into the community. She re-branded the acronym NIMBY to mean Next It May Be You.
She asked the council and staff to investigate the issue.
also spoke on the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance's signature gathering at the park each weekend.
agreed with Flo Martin about the Humane Society and offered a retort to Bogner's comment regarding those who attend meetings and reminded us that despite her comments about homelessness, statistics show it is actually up 45%. She also asked for a clarification of the rules of behavior in meetings. She wondered what constituted "disruption"? Is one clap or two a disruption? She suggested that because disruption is against the rules and being insolent is not, that we should try to keep it somewhere in between.
expressed concern about what appeared to be ongoing dialogue by council members on certain social media sites and asked for clarification from the City Attorney regarding possible Brown Act violations. She specifically cited Mayor Steve Mensinger for his role in what appeared to be a serial conversation on a site. It seemed like a valid concern, but she didn't get an answer.
observed that, since she'll probably have a lot of time on her hands now, she'd like some answers on the status of the Self Insurance Fund, wondering if it was being improperly used for legal fees instead of claim payments.
demanded an explanation from Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer
regarding his negative comments about the Fire staff as quoted in the Orange County Register. She strongly criticized him for his negative comments about that group and was concerned about the fact that there has been no labor contract for more than 20 months.
An unidentified person spoke on another Register Editorial.
During Council Member Comments Gary Monahan,
for the first time in months, came loaded for bear. He welcomed Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz
back from his vacation and expressed gratitude for the new 55 Freeway Monument sign. He said he had been approached by two former council members concerned about Brown Act violations and asked City Attorney Tom Duarte
for an opinion later. He also cited a Register Editorial that was negative on the Smart Growth Initiative. He griped about being criticized for proposing a Medical Marijuana ordinance, but observed that we need to do SOMETHING
on that issue because there will likely be two other issues on the November ballot. He also expressed concern about the growing reports of coyotes throughout the city and asked CEO Tom Hatch to look into it. He also expressed concern that nothing is happening regarding permanent field lights at Kaiser and Parson fields.
Righeimer began his comments by saying that he didn't have anything - until public speakers spoke. He then launched into a tirade against the fire "union" and Fire Association President Rob Gagne
specifically. He made a point to quote his last several years pay - we presume his numbers included the pension load, which is not pay in his pocket. He told us "I love firemen
", then went on to vilify them. The man is a hypocrite of the worst kind. He also spoke of the Homeless, citing the fact that we have more "attractants
" - good weather and facilities. He observed about the problem motels that are havens for "pimps, prostitutes and druggies". He then told Hatch that he wanted the staff to come back with plans for a $20 million bond for homeless housing. He said we're going to let the people decide if they want to do something about it. He praised Chief Rob Sharpnack
and the CMPD, and cited how well we are doing in recruitment, indicating it's because we have a pre-academy program in which he said "we do jumping jacks" to prepare our candidates for the academy. What a schmuck!
Mensinger asked Hatch to look into the light spillage issue at the dealership. He also mentioned that the meeting would close in honor of City Engineer Fariba Fazeli
, who passed away last week. He also directed Hatch to reach out to the Coffmans to help with their concerns about the safety of their neighborhood. He praised Bogner for her involvement in homeless issues. Regarding the homeless, he said "We want to help our own but we don't want to advertise how good we are because we don't want to attract others.
" He addressed the rules for meetings, indicating "I'm going to make the call
" on bad behavior. He also mentioned Ed Baume
, an icon in youth football circles in Costa Mesa, and that he's on his last legs with an infection in his brain.
mentioned Medical Marijuana, agreeing with Monahan that we need to do something. She also mentioned that, as a result of a conversation with Duarte, they may have more leeway regarding Brown Act issues. She spoke about the Hixson Metals issue and the pollution of our Westside, indicating that the South Coast Air Quality Management District is on top of it. She mentioned a tour of the county emergency response site through the ACCOC organization and mentioned coming away quite sobered. She immediately reviewed our Emergency Action Plan and suggested her fellow council members do the same. She spoke about Homelessness, too. She wondered where we would put permanent supportive housing, even if we had the money to build it.
Hatch, during his comments, said they would work on issues brought up last night.
Nothing was pulled from the Consent Calendar, although Genis asked that her vote on item #7 be recorded as a dissent.
Old Business #1, the second reading of the new Water rules, took about two minutes and was passed on a 4-0 vote.
BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB PUSHED OFF
New Business #1, the extension of the contract for the Boys and Girls Club for another 48 years took some more dialogue. Apparently the Harbor Area Boys and Girls Club is in merger talks with the Santa Ana organization. Robert Santana
, Executive Director of that organization and interim boss of the local organization, spoke to the council on the extension issue and provided an overview of his plans for the Costa Mesa sites - the one on Tustin Avenue and the one at Rea Elementary School on the Westside. Although the council members - Righeimer, in particular - expressed the "utmost
" confidence in Santana's abilities, they were concerned about the length of the lease and what guarantees there would be that the organization would, in fact, keep the facilities and programming up to date. The issue was referred back to staff to try to hammer out a better contract and hinted that maybe 48 years was too long. No vote was taken on the issue.
THE OUSTER OF ANNA VRSKA
And finally we came to the BIG
event of the evening, New Business #2 - Jim Righeimer's demand for the ouster of Anna Vrska from the dormant Fairview Park Citizen's Advisory Committee (FPCAC). Although he really didn't NEED
a reason, he made it VERY
clear that it was because she referred to the Sergeant-at-arms - a CMPD
Reserve Officer - at the last Planning Commission meeting as "acting like a Nazi" enforcing decorum rules in the meeting.
SORRY, IT'S GOING TO BE AWHILE
OK, take a deep breath - go get a cup of tea or a Diet Coke - because this is going to take awhile. The issue is too important to give it short shrift simply because it's the wee hours of the morning when I'm typing this. I'm going to provide you with some pithy quotations from the players in this drama because it's important you understand just how incendiary this discussion was.
SHOCKED! SHOCKED, I SAY!
Righeimer began by telling us how "shocked
" he was at the "cavalierness with which this word is tossed around.
" I smiled when he said, "It's not the public square where you can stand on a box and say whatever you want to say, but I guess you can.
" I smiled because the High Priestess of the Costa Mesa Public Square was sitting in the audience last night. He said Vrska disagreed on everything on the FPCAC. He told us his 8th grade daughter went to the "Holecost"
Museum... yeah, he didn't pronounce it correctly - and that she was so upset about it that she couldn't eat.
Speaking about Vrska using that word - Nazi - he said, "As long as I'm on this council a person who does that in a public meeting saying that to somebody in our system will no longer be on that committee. It's as simple as that." Unfortunately, nobody reminded him that Dennis Popp - one of their insiders on the committee - did that very thing! He compared the actions of folks who turned out to the meetings to express their opinions about what kind of facilities should or should not be included in the planning for Fairview Park as using "Nazi tactics", and later described them as "terrorists" and actually compared them to "Al Qaeda" in his pathetic blog. And yet, there that pompous pontificator sits on the committee without so much as a raised eyebrow.
Then came Public Comments. Nine (9) people spoke to this issue and none suggested Vrska was correct in the use of the word.
Linn Redman again spoke, this time to veer totally off topic and tell us about his son, Christian, who was at some kind of 4H conference in Alaska.
John Stephens spoke elequently about forgiveness. He said he'd watched the tape of the comment and thought it was inappropriate, but he said he didn't feel it was "unforgivable". Observed that he, Mayor Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer all raise their children with the Sisters of Mercy, and wondered whether forgiveness and mercy should be applied. He cited Anna's dedication to Fairview Park and wondered whether their decision should be for mercy or retribution, compassion or condemnation. He asked for forgiveness. As it turned out, Vrska got retribution and condemnation.
Margaret Mooney encouraged the council to forgive Anna, and said there is no nexus to her comment at the Planning Commission and her position on the FPCAC. She said the council should not go for retribution.
Cindy Brenneman agreed with both Stephens and Mooney and said it's time for forgiveness.
Terry Koken stepped up and referred to Righeimer as "Ayatollah", as in Khomeini. He said Righeimer was "a craven coward who meets free speech with a hammer." He said the removal of Vrska from the committee would be "a misuse of overwhelming power against a defenseless target - the only voice of conservancy on the FPCAC."
Karl Ahlf reminded the council this is lent - a time to forgive, and that the First Amendment should be followed.
Tamar Goldmann said "she said it, it's inappropriate and she shouldn't have said it." but "this is a reaction to her analysis and research - a way to put aside an irritant." She then cited an authority on such issues as concurring that the word "Nazis" and the word "thug" are not that different - referring to his use of the term "thug" when discussing city employees. She also referred to his use of the term "shaking us down", when referring to certain employees. She said, "Mr. Righeimer might look at this and realize he was talking about himself when he said this language is inappropriate and people who use it are unfit to serve. I suggest that if you guys are serious about language and propriety and shaming people Mr. Righeimer step down tonight, take Anna with you - it's a good exchange. Otherwise you will be shown up as the hypocrite that your are..."
Robin Leffler again expressed concern about the Brown Act and the social media sites, indicating that all four of the members present are participants on a certain site (CMPS) and that there had been many conversations on this issue on that site.
An unidentified person reminded the council that Righeimer had launched into a tirade back in 2013 when this person asked her close friend to ask a question about sober living homes for her because she was fearful of speaking.
Mensinger, in response to Leffler's question, said "Expressing our feelings in public has nothing to do with how we vote." Really? Well, how about exchanging your feelings with other council members on issues that you will subsequently vote on? How about putting those feelings out there on social media sites for other council members to read and contemplate?
Genis told us she was disappointed with Vrska's comment, then went on to bemoan the "coarsening of debate in this country." She contemplated it and said she thought she'd make a list, but then compared that to cleaning the oven - a job that leaves the oven clean but us dirty. She then gave several Bible quotations, ending with one she quoted from Jesus - "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." She then moved that they receive and file the item... there was no second.
And then it was Righeimer's turn. He made a motion to "go ahead and make a motion to have Anna Vrska removed as a substitute motion if I have a second." Monahan seconded the motion and Righeimer launched his tirade. I transcribed his comments as he said them. Remember, sometimes he speaks in tongues.
"I don't know to be shocked, embarrassed, dismayed by members of this community, what they said up here tonight. I'm absolutely shocked and dismayed. I cannot believe the Alice in Wonderland you're living in! That words have no meaning. You can say whatever you want and it doesn't matter. It never matters. Tamar Goldmann, you're a teacher or were a teacher? You're teaching students in college and you're telling them that thugs and a nazi are the same thing. It's Alice in Wonderland. (Goldmann attempted to reply from the audience and was commanded by Mensinger to be silent.) It's Alice in Wonderland. They're the same thing. There kinda, you know, 6.2 million Jews. You know, death camps. Everythings going to be OK. (Mensinger continues to tell her to be quiet. Genis says "She has a point of personal privilege". Mensinger says "No, she doesn't".) Righeimer continues, "The point is, and then we have somebody else come up here and says 'Oh, Mayor Pro Tem' he thinks he's funny. (Directed at Terry Koken) I mean, his songs were funny at one time but now you're an embarrassment to the community. OK? To come up here and say a sitting council person, because he wants to take somebody off a committee is Khomeini? Somebody who slices throats! Slices throats! Takes people lines them up and takes their heads off. It's just fine and you're nodding your head goin' on there. Are you just, like, uneducated? What's the problem? The point of it is that there are consequences to what we do. I don't have a person in here that's going to keep their job goin' off calling people Nazis. You'd be fired in most companies. You don't do that. People understand the distinction.
"Now, Mr. Stephens, you're a great attorney. I know you're gonna try to go on the City Council and maybe you'll be a great council person some day. You do a great argument and you're really good at it. But, number 1 - to give forgiveness the person has to ask for forgiveness. And there were two open microphones and nobody came up here. Because the person's arrogant. She's arrogant. She thinks she can say whatever she wants. She has a massive problem with adult supervision. I don't know her problems in her past are. I don't care. but if you walk down Harbor Boulevard or any other street or go into Home Depot and you ask a citizen, 'Is it OK to have an appointed person of a committee call our police officers nazis?' they'd say 'no', They'd say 'Hell, no'. If you get up here to say this.. do you understand what you're saying? When you give compassion to people - and I'm not saying she's evil but the evil things - when you give compassion to evil you hurt regular people. To go out there to say, 'Oh, he just murdered somebody, it's really OK, let him out.' Somebody goes out there and rapes your sister and your family, well, let them forgive. The reality of it is is there are consequences in life. And we are in a society now that wants to go ahead and wash over everything. Well, my children are being learned that you don't wash over things. What you say means something. How you act means something. How you treat people means something and there'll be consequences. Now some day, some day she can ask for forgiveness and I'm sure I'll give it to her because it's not really my issue to give her forgiveness. The reality of it is she didn't come up here and ask for it. What she wants to do is hide behind all sorts of people to kind of play games. It's just like lawyers do getting people who, you know, shoot the cops off. OK? That's what they do. And I'm embarrassed, embarrassed by some of these. You do not represent the people that I know in this community- people that come up here and say it's nothing. This is not about lent. This is not about forgiveness. This is about when we do something there are consequences to your actions. Is she being fined? Is she losing money? She's being taken off a committee! That's it! I mean, that's the most that we can do and that's all that I'm doing. Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor."
Then Gary Monahan takes over to speak to his second of the motion, and begins:
"Thank you, Mr. Mayor, (chuckling) I just find this interesting. You mentioned the Khomenini comment and I was just something to the same effect. I mean, we're just taking you off the committee. I mean, it's not like, like Jim said, sorry, but we're not cutting somebody's head off or whatever. I'm not taking you off because necessarily what you said. I didn't vote for you in the first place. It's that simple. I've not been impressed over the months on how you berated staff. You claim you can't get staff reports. You put in requests and requests and requests and requests. It drives the staff hours and hours and hours to do things, and then claim they're not trying to help you. I haven't been happy with that and it's one of the reasons I didn't vote for you in the first place. That's why I'm sticking it to you now. I heard, I hear, I've said and had conversations and overheard conversations ten times worse at Geoff West's favorite gin joint over on Newport Boulevard. It happens, OK? I get it, OK? You got up tight, a word slipped out. I understand. But, you know, I've set up here for awhile. I've been in this seat. I've watched Steve go through it, I've watched Jim go through it and I've watched Sandy go through it and I've watched people in the audience that just have no respect sometimes for the way a meeting is supposed to go, for the decorum. And it drives me crazy. You can't tell us your name? You get mad if we mention you by name! Heck, I used to call almost every person when they came up to the microphone by their first name. Now we get people getting mad at us for that. We get people out in the audience that are just chompin' on food. They're talking, they're clapping. They're hooting. They're hissing. It's ridiculous. And that's one of the reasons I didn't vote for you in the first place. And now I'm not going to support you either. It has nothing, really, that much to do with the fact you called this young man over here, who watches our back, what you did. 'Cause, trust me, he's heard worse than that before, just 'cause I have. but it's the mere fact that you have the audacity to do it in a public forum. And that's what really bothers me. And that's part of the problem we've had for a long time. Thank you Mr. Mayor."
Then Sandy Genis says, "Mr. Mayor, I would just like to note that historically the thugs were quite violent and did execute significant numbers of people for those who are wondering why Ms. Goldmann made, I'm assuming, I don't really know, I'm guessing, but why someone who is a historian might see certain similarities because the thugs were definately violent. (Mensinger asked "which thugs") Genis says,"It was like extreme like in India during wars, I don't know, but they were not nice people." (Mensinger says, "Uh, OK")
They took the vote, which passed 3-1, with Genis voting NO, and Anna Vrska was summarily bounced from the dormant committee and we're all the worse off for it.
LET US REVISIT
But let us revisit this whole "Vrska" thing for a moment. This was all about a word - Nazi. And, as Righeimer said constantly, words have consequences. So, when he chides and berates members of the public for exercising their First Amendment rights before the council, are there consequences for his words?
When he questions a skilled teacher on her choice of a word - thug - demeaning her in the process - what does it tell you about him? By the way, that word - thug - is derived from "thugee", which you can read about HERE. Depending on which authority you believe, the "thugs" were a murderous mob who killed maybe a million people. Ms. Goldmann's comparison of "thug" to "nazi" was perfectly appropriate, but Righeimer's limited education failed to prepare him to understand the reference. I guess he's, like, uneducated, huh?
HOISTED ON HIS OWN PETARD
When you demean a member of the public, calling him an "embarrassment to the community", what does that tell you about Righeimer? When he says to that man, "Are you, like, uneducated?" then goes on to tell us, "Well, my children are being learned that you don't wash things over!", did you smile as I did?
STICKING IT TO HER
And did you like it when Monahan told Vrska that "I didn't vote for you in the first place. It's that simple.", did your eyebrows go up? Did you enjoy him telling her he was "sticking it to you now" now because he didn't like her behavior - even though that behavior - asking for information - is guaranteed to us?
GOOD FOR THE GOOSE...?
How about when Monahan admitted that he'd said things "ten times worse" at his gin joint? Just a little hypocritical, don't you think? And, by the way, Gary... I don't refer to your place as a "gin joint" - it's "gin mill", if you please.
Last night was only the latest example of Jim Righeimer's vindictive approach to managing issues. He's a petulant, self-serving political hack who thinks he knows more than he does - and frequently displays his ineptness for us all to see - like last night. I especially liked his comment about John Stephens - who just might be an opponent for the mayor this fall - when he said, "you'll be a great council person some day". Well, I think he's right, but I'm not so sure the mayor will be all that happy about it.
THE FORGOTTEN MAN
And, by the way, Righeimer was demanding a request for forgiveness from Vrska - but she owes him nothing! If she owes anyone anything it's the forgotten man in this whole, thing - the Sergeant-at-arms from the Planning Commission, who just happened to be filling the same role last night and observed the entire drama. I saw her talking with him after the meeting and they seemed quite cordial, but I don't know what kind of dialogue was exchanged between them.
NO MERCY NOR FORGIVENESS
Stephens gave Righeimer an easy out - calling upon their shared religious foundation to evoke mercy and forgiveness... and it didn't work. "Mercy" apparently only exists in the context of "Mercy House", where he was on the board for many years. Forgiveness is an alien concept to him, so it makes one wonder just what he's hearing when he's in church. Perhaps he's too busy counting the contents of the offering plate.
AND HIS MARK IS....
So, a big thank you to Jim Righeimer for demonstrating, once again, just what a shallow, condescending, vindictive, petulant and ignorant little man he is. While he's blathering on, scolding us all for our transgressions, he's obviously forgotten one very important thing - you don't have to say every word in your head! He opens his mouth and out it all comes... kind of reminds me of Donald Trump's comment, "I got words!" The mark Righeimer will leave on this community, when he finally leaves, will be very much like that soiled stain your recently-potty trained little one leaves in his underwear when he has an accident. I believe the vernacular for it is "skid mark".
Labels: Anna Vrska, Boys and Girls Club, Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee, Gary Monahan, Jim Righeimer, Katrina Foley, Rob Gagne, Sandra Genis, Steve Mensinger