First Round Of Commission Candidate Interviews A Success
Last night most of the Costa Mesa City Council participated in the first round of interviews of candidates for the Senior Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission in Conference Room 1A, and, although it began a little late, the process went very smoothly.
RIGHEIMER BLEW IT OFF
The afternoon began with only four council members present. Jim Righeimer was not present for this process, and Allan Mansoor left after the Senior Commission session, so he heard nothing from Parks and Recreation Commission candidates. We don't know where Righeimer was - he may have still been recuperating from President Trump's inauguration last week. I think we're actually lucky he blew this meeting off - his presence likely would have extended the evening an hour. In addition to the council members, City Manager Tom Hatch, City Attorney Tom Duarte and City Clerk Brenda Green were present.
Approximately twenty (20) members of the public attended. Attendance fluctuated, as folks arrived and departed throughout the process. At any one time there were a dozen people with me in the peanut gallery.
FOLEY MODERATED - MEETING WAS RECORDED
Mayor Katrina Foley opened the meeting in Conference Room 1A by announcing that each candidate would have eleven (11) minutes during which questions would be posed by the council members. In a pleasant surprise, she also announced that this meeting was being recorded for later viewing, as will be the interview session next Tuesday for Planning Commission candidates in the same venue. It was also announced that, following next Tuesday's interview session, the council will matriculate to City Council Chambers where, live and in living color - and on streaming video - they will select members for all three commissions. This is a good decision, since all commissioners are being selected at one time.
Three members of the public spoke during the time provided at the beginning. Rebecca Tranham (?) spoke in favor of candidates Jeff Mathews and Lee Ramos. Mark Arblaster, a long-time youth soccer functionary, provided some history of problems with TeWinkle Park, the decline of youth baseball and adult softball and the rise in demand for soccer fields. He spoke in support of Kim Pederson for a Parks and Recreation Commission seat. Flo Martin spoke with enthusiasm in support of Charlene Ashendorf for a Senior Commission position.
As I said in my earlier post, this group of candidates were, on paper, outstanding. The pool from which the council members will select members for each commission is deep and broad, with many diverse backgrounds, educational levels and work experience. It was fun to hear them perform.
Promptly at 4:30 p.m. the interrogations for seven Senior Commissions began. The process was for each candidate to be escorted into the room - all other candidates were asked to remain outside the room until it was their turn so each candidate had a nearly identical experience. Foley asked each a pair of pre-determined questions, then the council members took turns asking quesitions as long as time permitted. Most of time, but not all the time, candidates were given a minute to provide a closings statement.
I'm not going to tell you the questions asked and the answers given. Suffice it to say, this group came mostly prepared - some much more than others. The final interview finished at 6:25, after which the council took a brief break. The candidates interviewed, in order, were:
Lucia S. Holt
Gary Parkin (who was also interviewed as a candidate for a Parks and Recreation Commission slot)
Following those interviews it was clear to me that, while the council may be able to select seven (7) members for the Senior Commission from this group, it's unclear to me why that number of commissioners is necessary. In my view, the number should be reduced to 5, just as the other commissions are constituted. That, however, is a problem for another time. However, since this commission meets only in the even numbered months and will not meet in January, it would be possible for the City Council to revisit this configuration to reduce the number and select five commissioners in time for their March meeting, if they choose to do so.
MANSOOR BAILED OUT
Following the break Allan Mansoor bailed out. We don't know where he went, but there was still a quorum, so the process continued. I'm not sure how to interpret the absence of the two men who are clearly in the minority on the council. I'll guess we'll find out when the selection process is complete next week.
The interview process for the five (5) Parks and Recreation Commission seats began a little later than intended, but moved just as briskly as the previous session. Foley began by asking two pre-determined questions, then John Stephens and Sandra Genis, along with Foley, rotated asking questions of each candidate. Again, only the candidate being interviewed was in the room - the others remained elsewhere, out of sight and sound. That seemed to work well and was fair.
Again, the pool of candidates was outstanding. Again, I'm not going to give away the questions and answers except to observe that several otherwise excellent candidates seemed not to have done their homework on some pretty obvious issues. The council should have no trouble selecting from this group to fill the five openings with folks of diverse interests, backgrounds and passions. The people interviewed, in order, were:
Carla Navarro Woods
(Former commissioner Jeff Mathews - who is also a candidate for the Planning Commission - failed to appear and Gary Parkin was interviewed as part of the Senior Commission segment)
The meeting finished at 8:40 p.m. Next Tuesday, January 31, 2017, they will again convene to interrogate the candidates for Planning Commission. As mentioned above, following that process the council will move to City Council Chambers for the actual selection exercise. I'm under the impression that a time-certain for the commencement of that part of this process will be included in the agenda for the meeting, which will be distributed at the end of this week.
I, and more than a few others, were concerned about this process. However, it went well and the council seemed to get most of their important questions asked and answered in the eleven minutes provided. I'm not sure that will be enough time for the Planning Commission candidates, but Hatch and his staff will assess that issue and recommend adjustments as they think is appropriate.
It's interesting to note that the actual selection process has NOT yet been determined, except that Foley was adamant that it will NOT be the same as last time. I do know that there's interest in trying to remove the politics from this process to the extent possible. By this time next week a new process will have been adopted and we will have at least ten (10) new commissioners and the important work of the City may resume.
IMAGES JUST FOR COLOR
I've provided you with a few marginal photos - the vantage point back in the cheap seats leaves much to be desired. Do not interpret the inclusion of any specific image to mean anything other than it turned out OK - most did not. As you might expect, having previously read all their applications, I formed an opinion on the candidates as the interviews unfolded. If it was up to me to choose right now I would have no trouble populating the three commissions with solid candidates. However, that's not my role here, so I'll just let the council members do their jobs. Until next time...