Never A Dull Moment At Council Meetings - Even Short Ones
Well, last night's Costa Mesa City Council meeting was interesting, to say the very least. Even with Steve Mensinger's COIN discussion pulled from the agenda earlier in the day, there was plenty of fun stuff to keep us interested. And, for the first time in a very long time I actually attended the meeting and made it through the entire night - until just after 10:00 p.m., when Mayor closed the meeting in memory of Dennis Barton. More on that in a minute
THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
A new wrinkle was added to the beginning of the meeting when members of the Costa Mesa High School Band - wind instruments - played the National Anthem before the Pledge of Allegiance. It's our understanding that this kind of event will begin all future council meetings.
Nineteen (19) people spoke during Public Comments.
We are not environmental kooks" - a epithet leveled at environmental activists recently by him, apparently because their actions create development problems for his pals.
COUNCIL MEMBER COMMENTS
During Council Member Comments (each one had four (4) minutes), they said the following:
Righeimer addressed the Fairview Developmental Center issue, stating that the City has little control over what happens while it is in state hands, but that they can prescribe zoning of the area for other uses in the future, which they have done, locking in 25% for institutional uses - like a Mental Health Service Center.
Allan Mansoor told us that his absence from the meeting last Tuesday was due to the passing of his father. He asked City Manager Tom Hatch to take a look at Graham's suggestion about the flooded sections of Fairview Park and the planned trails.
Mayor Katrina Foley affirmed the plan for the National Anthem to be presented at each future council meeting by youth groups. She mentioned that tourism is up in Costa Mesa. She also thanked the firefighters for their actions aboard that airplane. She mentioned that March is Woman's History Month and that there will be an event marking the seven (7) former female mayors in our city.
Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Genis mentioned her Infrastructure Workshop, scheduled for the evening of February 16th in Conference Room 1A and invited the public to attend and tell her what they thought were priorities in the City infrastructure. She also mentioned Dennis Barton's passing. She mentioned the meeting of the Coastal Commission today at the Newport Civic Center where the future of Banning Ranch will be, once again, discussed. She reinforced the need to remind the folks at the Orange County Fairgrounds of their responsibility to the community. She also mentioned the Metroplex workshop, observing that despite the changes being implemented, it all comes down to the individual pilot and air traffic controller.
Councilman John Stephens mentioned his upcoming "T it up with John" event tomorrow at City Hall where he will host residents who want to provide input on Fireworks in Costa Mesa. That should be interesting. He also mentioned Dennis Barton, whom he described as a kind and dear man.
No items - ZERO - were pulled from the Consent Calendar for separate discussion and vote, so the council quickly passed it on a 5-0 vote - one of the rare unanimous votes last night.
BANNING MARIJUANA EXTENDED
Public Hearing #1, the extension of the Emergency Ordinance banning any marijuana - medical or otherwise - in the City for another ten (10) months and fifteen (15) days was very briefly discussed and passed on a 5-0 vote.
Old Business #1, the appointments of candidates to the Planning, Parks and Recreation and Senior Commissions, was up next. You can read the staff report, including the attachments with applications, HERE. City Clerk Brenda Green explained the process and, following a very brief discussion, the public was invited to address this issue. Seven people spoke to the issues. Among them was Ann Parker, who reminded them that the commissioners should be following the rules. Cindy Black, after a short comment, ended by saying, "We're watching you".
Foley then explained the interview process, wherein each Planning Commission candidate was interviewed by council members for eleven minutes. I've written about those two interview sessions, for the Parks and Recreation and Senior Commissions HERE and for the Planning Commission HERE. She said her goal was to be inclusive and to have balance on the commissions.
MANSOOR - "I'LL GO ALONG"
During Council Comments on this issue Mansoor said he disagreed with firing all the previous commissioners, but that he was going to go along with the process.
STEPHENS - GREAT FEEDBACK SO FAR
Stephens said the response to the recruitment was beyond his expectations and he was very impressed with the applicants for all commissions. He indicated he had received great feedback from folks who had observed the interviews and that he was very pleased with the process.
GENIS - "GOOD AND SUPERGOOD"
Genis was also impressed with the applicants, stating that "Everybody was good and some were Super Good." She mentioned a variety of skill sets and diversity of the candidates.
RIGHEIMER - HE'S ANGRY AND INCONSIDERATE
Righeimer thanked all the applicants, then said he vehemently opposes the firing of the previous commissioners. He said it was a slap in the face to the people who had worked hard. He then, observing about the candidates, said "These people don't have a clue" about the important issues facing them... ever the class act, isn't he? He then invoked "the unions", somehow indicating this was political payback. Geez, it never stops! He then said "This whole process is wrong!"
FOLEY - VOTING FOR BALANCE
Foley indicated she will be voting for balance and Righeimer launched into another rant.
FINALLY, THE VOTES
Finally they got around to marking their nominations forms. This meant that they would rank their, in the case of the Planning Commission, top five candidates on a scale from 5-1, 5 being highest. After submitting those forms to Green, there would be a brief recess while she tallied the numbers. The total for each candidate would be calculated, then multiplied by the number of nomination forms on which that person appeared. You can see the blank nomination forms HERE.
The highest scores - 5 for the Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, 7 for the Senior Commission - would be the successful applicants. The highest scored would occupy the 4-year appointments and the remainder would be 2-year appointees.
So, after a short break during which Green did the calculations, she announced the successful candidates for the five Planning Commission seats. The are, in order of most votes as a result of that calculation:
Jeffrey Harlan - 36 (4 years)
Byron de Arakal - 32 (4 years)
Isabell Mayer Kerins - 20 (2 years)
Carla Navarro Woods - 18 (2 years)
Stephan Andranian - 16 (2 years)
Teresa Callo Drain - 15
Jenna Tourje - 12
Rob Dickson - 8
Jonathan Zich - 5
Daniel Hoffman - 4
Jeff Mathews - 4
Jay Humphrey - 2.
Sarah Bortz, Mark Buchanan, Susan Gonzales, Dan Worthington received no votes.
AN EXCELLENT GROUP
In my view, this is an excellent commission, with a varied background of technology, business and education. My opinion is that it likely will have a slight tilt towards the Righeimer/Mansoor side of the equation, but only time will tell. I'm not quite sure how to interpret the fact that neither Chairman Rob Dickson nor Vice Chair Jeff Mathews were selected, nor was Jay Humphrey. And, I don't recall two women on any Planning Commission in recent memory.
PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
The council then submitted their nomination forms for the Parks and Recreation Commission and, after a short break again during which Green tallied the numbers, they were presented with the following results:
Kim Pederson - 70 (4 years)
Liz McNabb - 33 (4 years)
Leah Ersoylu - 27 (2 years)
Arlis Reynolds - 24 (2 years)
Kristina Bogner - 20 (2 years)
Shannon Crossen - 18
Gary Parkin - 12
Steve Smith - 8
Jeff Mathews - 4
Barbara Morihiro - 2
Mark Buchanan - 0
Carla Navarro Woods - 0
ANOTHER GOOD GROUP - KIM AND HIS HAREM
Again, another excellent group was chosen and, again, Jeff Mathews was rejected. Kim Pederson, who has been the Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission in the past, is a good choice from a continuity standpoint. It will be interesting to watch Kim and his harem - four women, for goodness sake! - in action later this month. (NOTE: My "harem" reference was not intended to offend anyone. It was just an attempt to demonstrate how rare it is in our city to have a commission dominated by women. Kim Pederson will be one lucky man to be seated on the dais with such a group of dedicated, skilled women.)
Finally the council submitted their nomination forms for the Senior Commission and, again, after a short break Green presented the following results for the seven seats:
Gary Parkin - 130 (4 years)
Charlene Ashendorf - 115 (4 years)
Alexa Merchant - 48 (4 years)
Darrell Neft - 39 (2 years)
Barbara Steck - 27 (2 years)
Lee Ramos - 24 (2 years)
Olga Reynolds - 16 (2 years)
Joeliza Jones - 16 (lost in a vote to Reynolds)
Lucia Holt - 10
Randy Briggs - 0
ANOTHER GOOD GROUP
And, once again, this commission has some real strength to it. Gary Parkin and Lee Ramos - the two most junior former commissioners, will return. And, again, this is a commission with a majority of women.
CHICKS RULE! (SORRY, LADIES)
So, of the seventeen commissioners selected last night, ten (10) are women. This must be some kind of a landmark moment in our city's history. Congratulation to all the new commissioners.
WIND SPEED ORDINANCE
Next came the second reading of the Wind Speed ordinance. As predicted, it took just about 2 minutes for the council to approve it on a 5-0 vote.
RESCUE AMBULANCE REDUX - AGAIN
Next came New Business #2, Fire Chief Dan Stefano's presentation - one more time - of a plan to fully implement the Rescue Ambulances. This was rejected by the last Righeimer-dominated council majority and has been sitting on the shelf for a year despite having purchased $1.6 million worth of vehicles to facilitate implementing this plan.
THE CHIEF'S GOAL LAST NIGHT
Following a short presentation by Chief Stefano, who asked for the council to approve a part-time Emergency Medical Services Coordinator to assist the department in the transition; schedule an April Study Session where the council could reassess the medical transportation options and schedule a hearing in May to review the updated recommendations.
Four members of the public spoke to this issue, all of whom supported this long-simmering proposal.
RIGHEIMER - ANGRY AND TRUTH-CHALLENGED
During the council member discussion Righeimer said he's adamantly opposed to this plan, and said this is just union payback for having supported the new council majority in the last election. He, again, said he didn't vote for ambulance transport. A lie. He, inaccurately, said the firefighters average $200,000 per year and accused firefighters of using scare tactics when they went door-to-door campaigning last year. Funny, he didn't mention his connection to our current contract ambulance service, C.A.R.E. Ambulance.
UH, REMEMBER THIS, JIM?
Foley refreshed Righeimer's memory on the history of the votes taken when the Rescue Ambulances were authorized - and yet he denied it.
Stephens supported this proposal.
Genis cited personal experience between C.A.R.E. and the Costa Mesa paramedics.
PASSED, WITHOUT A STUDY SESSION
Foley said she's ready to move forward and the council eventually, on a 3-2 vote, with Mansoor and Righeimer voting no, decided to direct Stefano to abandon the Study Session idea and return in April with a current plan for the implementation of this program, including all budgetary considerations.
CONTROVERSIAL COMMITTEE ISSUES
Next came New Business #3, the discussion of a re-populating of most City Committees, dissolving some and creating some new ones. This was really fun. You can read the staff report, which contains a list of all the committees and board involved, along with the roster of current members, HERE.
COMBINING PENSION AND FINANCE COMMITTEES
During public comments the following individuals spoke to these issues:
Ralph Taboada, a member of both the Finance Advisory Committee and Pension Oversight Committee, addressed the issue posed of combining both into one committee. He didn't want to see the Pension side of things shoved aside, though, and spoke about a Pension Sub-committee. He also suggested the Finance Committee discuss this proposal and come back to the council with suggestions about the reorganization, including the possibility of increasing the size of the combined committee.
YOUTH SPORTS COMMITTEE
Dustin Woods spoke about the proposal to create a Youth Sports Committee, and wondered how that would work with the existing Youth Sports Council, which operates under the umbrella of Costa Mesa United.
CONFLICT/COMPETE WITH YOUTH SPORTS COUNCIL?
Former Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Brett Eckles also addressed that issue, speaking in glowing terms about how effective the Youth Sports Council has been in the nearly ten years of it's existence. Council members interrogated him at length about the Youth Sports Council, it's organization, size, etc.
MILITARY AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Righeimer again vented about being angry at "firing" all the committee members. He indicated that he saw no reason for a Military Affairs Committee - presently there is a Military Affairs Team, a loosely configured group of volunteers who have involved themselves in very tangible ways supporting veterans and others. Staffer Dan Baker has been the City point man with that group.
Eventually, with much rancorous discussion, the council decided the following:
- Form a Military Affairs Committee, with the staff to return with details of size, scope, etc. The vote was 3-2, with Mansoor and Righeimer voting no.
- Form a Fairview Park Steering Committee, with the same staff requirements, on a 3-2 vote.
- Form a Youth Sports Committee, also on a 3-2 vote. Staff will return with potential member organizations, liaisons, ect.
- Dissolve the Charter, 60th Anniversary Committees on a 5-0 vote.
- Dissolve the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee on a 3-2 vote.
- Merge the Finance Advisory and Pension Oversight Committees, with the new name of Finance/Pension Advisory Committee. Staff will create the scope and recommendations about the size following the discussion with the existing Finance Advisory Committee. The vote was 3-2.
- Change the terms on the Access, Fire and Housing Board of Appeals to expire 3/31/17 and have the staff create new requirements that assure highly qualified individuals with the right kind of backgrounds for this infrequently used, but essential and required Board.
- Make no changes to the Cultural Arts Committee at this time.
- Change all the other terms of the committees not otherwise addressed to 3/31/17.
- Authorize recruitment for all expiring committees, on a 3-2 vote.
FOLEY TO HATCH
Foley then asked Hatch to arrange a meeting with Fairgrounds Management for a liaison meeting to discuss plans for that site. She also asked the status of the Fairview Park Manager position. Apparently we're going to have a full time staffer in charge of overseeing all elements of the park. She also, in response to a resident concern, asked for a report on the branding on literature being distributed at the park. And, she asked that there be a formal point in the agendas for staffers and council members who attend meetings to report back to the council on those activities.
ADJOURNED IN MEMORY OF DENNIS BARTON
She adjourned the meeting in memory of Dennis Barton just after 10:05 p.m.
Jim Righeimer continues to demonstrate his hatred of union employees. Meeting after meeting, on issue after issue, he attempts to blame any perceived ill on "unions". It's an interesting sidebar from last night to note that twice during the meeting two of those "darn union thugs" - members of the Costa Mesa Fire and Rescue Department - responded to a resident who seemed to be in physical distress. Yeah, they're bad folks, alright!
SORRY... THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE
Oh, yes... you may wonder where the heck this entry has been. As I type this we are now more than 20 hours since the meeting ended. Well, y'all are spoiled! That little old embolism last summer has caused me to adjust my work schedule - no more typing until dawn. That, plus an early morning dentist appointment, gave me a late start. And, today there was much drama around the community about the votes on the commission appointments. Those generated many, many telephone calls while I was trying to put this thing together. Thanks for your patience.