Monday, December 10, 2018

Change Is In The Air - Look Out!

Last Tuesday evening the Costa Mesa City Council took on a very new look.  In the second segment of the meeting - held in the Senior Center because Council Chambers at City Hall is under significant renovation for the next few months - the results of the election held on November 6th was certified by the City Clerk, Brenda Green and were approved by the outgoing City Council.  Actually, only one person was "out-going" - termed out Jim Righeimer.  (Darn, there I go again, mentioning his name!)
Then, the winners were sworn in by former mayor Judge Karen Robinson - a very special treat.
Katrina Foley was elected as the City's very first directly-elected mayor, defeating former mayor Sandra Genis by a huge margin.  This result was satisfying in many ways.  Genis was part of the council majority that deposed Foley as mayor last year without ever giving anything resembling a satisfactory explanation.  Foley conducted an energetic campaign, taking the high road and not responding to the vicious attempts to defame her name and record with lies and fabrications.  Genis, on the other hand, barely conducted a campaign and her representatives consistently took the low road.
The results of the district voting, also for the very first time in City history, was also very satisfying.  The candidates supported by the Righeimer/Mensinger/Genis/Mansoor group all failed miserably at the ballot box.

Andrea Marr soundly defeated Mensinger supporter Brett Eckles in the District 3 race.

Manuel Chavez crushed the developer-favorite Michelle Figueredo-Wilson for the District 4 race.  Activist Steve Chan finished far, far off the pace.

Arlis Reynolds walloped former divisive mayor Allan Mansoor in the District 5 race.  Rebecca Trahan was also well off the pace in this race.
In the euphoria that followed the swearing-in ceremony, following the obligatory break so name plates could be properly placed and chairs juggled, Foley quickly re-conveined the meeting and nominated John Stephens for Mayor Pro Tem.  That motion passed, 6-0. It seems Mansoor was wandering around somewhere and was late returning to the dais, so the vote was taken without him.  I couldn't help but smile...
We learned a lot from this election.  We learned that the voters, once again, affirmed that they'd had enough of the Righeimer/Mensinger style of governance.  They emphatically made clear that the solid rejection of those practices by the passage of Measures Y and AA in 2016 was not a fluke.  They don't want to see rampant multi-story developments.  They don't want to see spot zoning to facilitate that kind of development.  They don't want to see our residential neighborhoods defiled by increased density as a result of the Small Lot Ordinance.  They don't want to see the saturation of Sober Living Homes in our city.  They DO want to see a City Council that considers the needs of the residents before the profits of developers and sober living operators.
After the first "Righeimer" segment there were still more than 200 people in the packed room at the Senior Center, who cheered enthusiastically when each result was announced and each new member was seated on the dais.  For the first time in my memory covering City issues I saw throngs of Latino faces attending a meeting.  This is understandable, because there are new three members of the City Council with Latino heritage.  And, interestingly, there are four women on the council for the very first time, too.
Righeimer hijacked the discussion of a District Voting plan more than two years ago and replaced the preferred choice as determined by several public meetings - Five Members - with his Six Districts/Directly-Elected Mayor plan and had it placed on the ballot using his majority, with Genis and Mansoor.  Unfortunately, nobody wrote an opposing opinion for the 2016 ballot, so it passed.  It's likely that Righeimer thought this scheme would help him retain control of the council when he was termed out this year.  It failed... yet another scheme of his that failed.
Mayor Foley had placed on the agenda a plan for an existing Finance vacancy to be converted to a Chief Of Staff, which would report directly to her, plus three part-time aids to be shared by the six council members, reporting to the Chief of Staff.  This proposal was, to say the very least, controversial.  The debate and public comment on this plan went on for nearly two hours, including a period when clearly-frustrated former mayor Sandra Genis mouthed to someone in the crowd, "What do I do now?",  before new Mayor Pro Tem Stephens offered a motion that changed the reporting relationship of that position... it will report to the City Manager.  That's a good compromise.  Now, if only we had a City Manager...  The recruitment for the four positions is now underway, with a closing date of Friday, December 14, 2018.
I understand what Foley had in mind, but she probably should have made this proposal sometime in January.  There are no more meetings planned until the first week of January.  Perhaps she simply could have floated the idea and had a full-blown discussion and a more thorough vetting - the City Attorney apparently did not vet this proposal for legality.   Resident Eleanor Egan, a former member of the City legal department and Planning Commission, was among those who spoke to this issue  and advised against the proposal as presented.  Others spoke, as well, while Acting City Manager Tammy Letourneau looked on.   But, as I mentioned above, the issue passed on a 5-2 vote, with Genis and Mansoor opposing.  The screamers at the Costa Mesa Public Square have been rabid on this issue for the past week.  We'll see how this goes.
And, since I mentioned the City Attorney, I found myself wondering just where Tom Duarte was Tuesday night.  His seat was capably filled by former City Attorney, Kimberly Hall Barlow.  It was nice to see her back, even if it was for one meeting.  You may recall she was replaced by Duarte several years ago.  There was speculation that it was because she pushed back on the Righeimer/Mensinger mob.  Duarte was more compliant.
I have every confidence that this new City Council will work together effectively.  Foley has demonstrated her leadership during 2017, before she was deposed by Genis, etal.  The new, young council members have demonstrated through their campaigns and prior public service that they have the education, intelligence and energy to make a significant contribution to the future of the City.  It's unclear what kind of contributions Mansoor and Genis will be making for the next two years, when their at-large seats expire.  One thing is sure... the 2020 local election in which we will again elect a mayor and three district council members - Districts 1, 2 and 6 - will be a doozy, as the forces of the Dark Side will certainly attempt to regain control. The next council meeting will be Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

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