Friday, August 22, 2008


Thursday night nearly 200 interested observers took the opportunity to see the nine Costa Mesa City Council hopefuls strut their stuff. No, they were not walking the runway at a strip club - they were lined up on the stage at the Neighborhood Community Center fielding questions from rookie moderator, former councilman Jay Humphrey.

The proceedings were cordial, with all the candidates acting almost like statesmen (and women). No cheap shots. No backhanded remarks. It was almost boring - almost.

I came away with some initial impressions of our candidates this year. First, the heavy-hitters - Foley, Bever, Monahan and Righeimer - provided the most thorough answers to the questions they handled. This was not unexpected. They all bring years of experience in municipal activities to the table. Because of the format chosen, not all candidates had the opportunity to answer all the questions.


Second, the newcomers, Nick Moss, Lisa Reedy, Bill Sneen, Chris McEvoy have a tough road ahead, as does 2006 candidate Chris Bunyan. Sneen has obviously done his homework on many important issues. Reedy demonstrated maturity when she decided to pass on a question she didn't know enough about. Bunyan appears to be willing to ride the Banning Ranch issue in this campaign, because he persistently found a way to fold the subject into questions where it was barely marginally relevant. Nick Moss showed up full of passion but unprepared to answer most of the questions. It's clear that he really doesn't have a grasp of how the city works.

The most pleasant surprise for me was the performance of high school teacher Chris McEvoy. Although he apologized at the beginning for a physical condition that affects his speech, I found it not to be a problem at all. He's going to run a bare-bones campaign, but was quite refreshing as he attempted respond to many of the questions. Following the forum he told me he's in this for the long haul and, if he doesn't get elected this time around he'll be back in 2010. I hope so.

Most of the candidates provided us with literature and some have prepared web sites which can be visited to review their qualifications and positions on important issues. I've decided, based on a suggestion by a loyal reader, to provide links to all candidate's web sites over on the right side of the page. A few of the sites are not yet operational, but I'll provide the links once they actually work. I'll provide the links through the election.

So, after the first week of the campaign season - and before some of the candidates are actually in campaign mode - here's my take on how they stack up:

Katrina Foley provided the best answers to most of the questions tossed her way. Clearly, she was the best prepared and was able to articulate her views the best.

Jim Righeimer, while only a resident of Costa Mesa for 25 months, showed strength on development-related issues. Of course, he should - that's his profession. When, in his wrap-up, he told the crowd that he planned to "live and die" in Costa Mesa I thought it was a little over the top. Personally, regardless what happens in November, I fully expect him to seek higher office when his buddies at the OC GOP decide it's his turn again.

Gary Monahan, as he certainly should, showed good knowledge of most, but not all, issues. I kept finding myself wondering why, after 12 years on the city council previously, is he back here again? Cynic that I am, I'm thinking that some issue that has percolated to the forefront - like the future of the 55 Freeway - may have prompted him to jump back into the fray to protect his business, which is located where the freeway currently ends. At one point he seemed determined to keep the open sore of illegal immigration festering in this campaign.

Eric Bever, despite his term on the council and on the Planning Commission before that, continues to demonstrate weakness, which he tries to cover up with ill-timed humor. And - in typical Bever fashion - in a response to a question about the possibility of a new library, he misrepresented the facts of the ownership of the land near City Hall that has been earmarked for the new library. Supporters of the library were fuming at that bit of misinformation following the forum. He won't get one of my votes this year.

Bill Sneen was the strongest of the second tier candidates. He's been making the rounds of city officials and staffers and former civic leaders since he filed his papers to run, trying to get up to speed on important issues. He's still got a lot of work to do, but his maturity and business leadership skills would certainly be welcome on the dais.

Lisa Reedy, with more than two decades of community activism behind her and solid business credentials, is just getting started in this race. She's willing to admit when she doesn't have an answer, but she's going to have to do some serious studying as the campaign moves forward if she hopes to be a factor in this race.

Chris Bunyan, if he expects to be taken seriously in this campaign, is going to have to broaden his platform. He will not be able to ride the Banning Ranch to victory - not with the slate of candidates he's facing this time around.

Chris McEvoy is a very refreshing change - a bright, young guy who has called Costa Mesa his home and who knows it's his town for the future. He likely won't spend much money on his campaign, so probably doesn't stand much of a chance when competing with the first four listed here. That being said, his presence in this campaign should help it from getting stale. I'm looking forward to watching him evolve...

Nick Moss, while young and passionate, really has no clue about how our municipality works and doesn't appear to have done much homework to find the answers. His responses were generally naive and, quite honestly, clueless. In my view, he should drop out of the race now.

Thanks to our good neighbors in Mesa Verde as represented by their homeowners association, Mesa Verde Community, Inc., for sponsoring and producing yet another fine forum. Thanks, also, to Jay Humphrey, for keeping the candidates focused and the agenda on schedule.

For those who couldn't attend, Costa Mesa TV was in the house, taping the proceedings for future viewing beginning early next week. The forum will also be available for viewing via streaming video on the city web site.

So, they're off and running. Now let's see who has the tenacity to make it around the first turn in this race. It will be very interesting to watch this race take shape as nine people compete for three seats. I fully expect Righeimer, Monahan and Bever to get the backing of well-heeled Orange County GOP officials and for them to put on a full-court press attacking Katrina Foley. I expect them to spend $100,000 each in that effort.... we'll see.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Time to Break This Game of Nine Ball!

OK, folks, one last reminder...

Tomorrow, Thursday, August 21st, the first Costa Mesa City Council Candidate Forum will be held at the Neighborhood Community Center at Lions Park. The event, hosted by our good neighbors of Mesa Verde Community, Inc., the Mesa Verde homeowners association, commences at 6:00 p.m. with an opportunity to meet and greet the candidates, followed promptly at 7:00 for the formal forum program. The moderator of the forum will be former council member Jay Humphrey, who still keeps his oar in the water on important civic issues.

This forum, which in years past has consistently been the best-attended, best-run and most enlightening, should be a worthwhile expenditure of a few hours of your time.

This year's field of candidates is very special and, in many ways, unique. There are three seats open this time around, those of Mayor Eric Bever and Councilwomen Katrina Foley and Linda Dixon. Dixon has decided not to run again, even though she is eligible for another four-year term. Bever and Foley will be fighting to retain their seats on the dais.

Joining them on the forum dais will be twelve-year councilman (and multi-term mayor) Gary Monahan; Planning Commissioner Jim Righeimer; Business executive Bill Sneen; Mesa del Mar homeowners association President Lisa Reedy; Hair salon owner Christopher Bunyan; Teacher Christopher McEvoy and Computer guy Nicholas Moss.

Of these, Sneen, Reedy, Moss and McEvoy are neophytes, having held no elective office that we know of. Bunyan ran previously in 2006 and finished last in that race.

Moss, McEvoy and Bunyan have apparently chosen not to provide a candidate's statement for the voter's pamphlet. It's hard to imagine anyone running a serious campaign choosing not to present their qualifications in the only document guaranteed to land in the hands of every voter.

Katrina Foley has served on the council since elected in 2004 and served with distinction on the Planning Commission prior to that, including a tour as Chair of the commission. She's a wife, mother of two sons, successful owner of a law firm and involved in so many community activities that it makes one's head swim just thinking about it. As a member of the minority on the dais with Dixon for the past four years, she continued to present positive initiatives even though many were guaranteed to fail for lack of support from the Bever/Mansoor/Leece majority.

A review of the candidate's ballot statements has proven to be interesting. For example, on Gary Monahan's statement he lists himself as "Father/Restaurant Owner", and goes on to list the name of his restaurant as, "Skosh Monahan's Family Steakhouse". When I visit the web site I find the name listed as "Skosh Monahan's Steakhouse and Irish Pub". I guess old Gary decided that the voters might get the wrong idea and not return him to yet another tour at the municipal trough if he listed himself as a pub owner. But, then, it's politics, where you're warned to believe very little of what you see and none of what you hear.

Similarly, Eric Bever's statement provides some interesting fiction, too. He tells us that he "initiated many continuing improvement projects." He begins with this statement: "Developing solutions for the SR-55 terminus and associated cut-through traffic." Well, that, of course, is hogwash. He and his buddy, Allan Mansoor, ginned up this issue so Bever would have at least one plank in his campaign platform. Nothing of consequence is going to come of this activity for a generation - if then.

He then takes credit for the Residential Remodeling Incentive Program (RIIP), which waved fees for home improvements and, he says, resulted in $35,000,000 in improvements since 2005. What he doesn't tell you is that it also resulted in a loss of revenue to the strapped city coffers of well over $1 million!

Then he takes credit for "plans to create a new 10 acre sports complex". This is also a bogus claim. He jumped the gun with a press release of a program initiated by officials in Newport Beach which has almost certainly made it more difficult for Costa Mesa to do business with our contiguous neighbor. There is an essential element of trust necessary between city officials - he violated that trust.

Bever then takes credit for the Westside overlay zones. What a crock! Those were the result of thousands of hours of hard work by several dozen residents, hammered out over nearly a decade by several city committees of which he played a tiny part! Again, truth is in short supply in a campaign.

Finally, he says he "increased residential street paving". Will someone please call me if they've seen our mayor out spreading asphalt lately?

One more thing... Bever lists several very recognizable people as those who endorse his campaign. Among them he lists past mayor "Hammet". I'm sure the honorable Jack Hammett would have preferred to have his name spelled correctly. Oh, yes... his web site link doesn't work, either.

Jim Righeimer presents us with a pretty generic Conservative statement, the cornerstone of which is his statement that he will "never raise your taxes". Riggy's statement is not a problem - his history is, though. He moved to Costa Mesa just 25 months ago and was, amazingly, appointed to the Planning Commission by Allan Mansoor a few months later in an obvious act of partisan political payback for the help Mansoor got from Dana Rohrabacher during the campaign two years ago. Riggy is Dana's buddy and is running his re-election campaign. In my opinion, Righeimer is just using Costa Mesa as a place-holder until a slot further up the Orange County GOP food chain opens up - maybe Van Tran's State Assembly slot, for example. He's a smart guy, but I'm just not comfortable with him using Costa Mesa as a temporary stopping point.

In his statement, Bill Sneen tells us he's a resident of Costa Mesa for more than 2 decades and a happy family man. He lists for us several organizations in which he has been active in our city since 1981. He also tells us about a career involving more than a quarter century of successful business leadership. His credentials are solid, but the competition is tough.

Lisa Reedy is a name familiar to many folks who have followed civic issues for the past couple decades. She is presently the President of the Mesa Del Mar homeowners association and has a long and diverse history of volunteerism in our city. She, too, is a successful businesswoman and would bring some much-needed maturity to the dais. Again, the competition is tough this time around.

This forum should be a very interesting event and will be the first time we, as voters, can calibrate the individual candidates and begin to form opinions about just which three of these nine will serve the interests of all Costa Mesa residents the best over the next four years. It will be a chance to sort truth from fabrications. See you there.

If you miss the forum, I'm told that the city will tape the proceedings for replay on Channel 24 on Time-Warner Cable. I suspect it will also be available for viewing on streaming video on the city web site. There's a link to it on the right side of this page.

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