Saturday, April 07, 2012

Leslie Daigle's Tough Night

It's been more than 30 hours since I posted my sleep-deprived report on the recent Feet To The Fire Forum last Thursday evening at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center. If you really want to, you can read it again HERE.

The local print and online media did a good job of covering the event and provided us with several different versions of what actually happened that night. Mine was only my take on it. Here are some links to some of the stories for your reading pleasure and further edification.

  • Joe Serna's Daily Pilot account of the evening HERE.
  • Nick Gerda's story in the Voice of OC HERE.
  • Sara Hall's coverage in the Newport Beach Independent HERE.
  • Ron Winship's opinion in the Orange Juice Blog HERE.
  • Barbara Venezia's Orange County Register first-person report HERE.

In my view, the big story of the evening was the poor performance by Newport Beach councilwoman Leslie Daigle. She was clearly the most tense person on the dais right from the beginning. I had high hopes for her in her battle to win the primary election against Allan Mansoor because he makes such an easy target. He brings to the race a record of virtually NO accomplishment during his term in Sacramento representing a different district and also lugs with him the baggage of his 8 years on the Costa Mesa City Council. It should have been easy pickin's for Daigle, but it wasn't.

I knew that there was the potential for fireworks because Daigle has a "history" with a couple of the interrogators - hostess and moderator Barbara Venezia and new Daily Pilot "conservative" columnist Jack Wu. Venezia ran against Daigle for a seat on the Newport Beach City Council several years ago and that race turned nasty when Daigle's camp decided to go after the business her husband had recently sold to his employees. Rather than subject those folks to the unpleasantness Venezia dropped out of the race. That wound, while old, still festers a little.

Wu has been critical of Daigle quite recently in his Daily Pilot column, HERE, and, earlier, as a columnist for the Newport Beach Independent. I expected friction - and Daigle should have as well. Knowing that potential was there, she should have been better prepared to deal with it - but she wasn't. Wu did go after her but Venezia did not.

I said in my report that I felt Daigle finished third that night. In my view, newcomer Bob Rush - a freshly-minted Democrat - handled himself the best, appeared to be the least uncomfortable and gave good, crisp answers. Mansoor, in my view, came in second - but well ahead of Daigle.

Quite frankly, I was disappointed with the results. I was hoping for Daigle to make a good showing. She didn't, and I'm beginning to understand why.


Immediately after the meeting - within a couple hours - she sent me a short Facebook note wondering what I thought of the forum. I didn't see it until several hours later because I was working in the wee hours of Friday morning trying to get my post published. When I finally did see her message I simply replied with a link to what I wrote.

Later she replied with this message: "One of the journalists told me about the kool-aid you have now clearly drank.", which was a curious response to a guy she'd been courting for support for several months.

A couple hours later, when I finally woke up, I saw that comment and replied to her with this observation: "Really? You're blaming ME for last night? I sat, watched and listened like everyone else and I was far from alone in the view that, if scored on performance, you would have finished third. In my opinion, if you're going to be on the ballot in November you're going to have to really pick up your game." That's what I thought then, and still do now.

A few hours later she replied with this: "It was low turnout. People perceive the forum as the jerry springer show." And, since I didn't reply immediately to that one, four hours later - in the middle of the night - she sent this message to me: "The promoter lost credibility....invites participates to be interviewed by journalists then tries to spice it up with a discredited opinion columnist ("not a journalist")... its leaked the theme is make bob rush look viable...embarrassingly low turnout.... forum is jerry springer cuz' the format is a joke...promoter is syncophant GW a pre-packaged storyline.. promoter does a wicked rant which is viewed as she harbors bitterness."

Around noon Friday I sent her this message: "Leslie, did you actually read those last two entries before you posted them? I thought 150 people was a pretty good turnout for this race. Most of the folks I spoke with who attended liked the spirited discussions. Yes, they ganged up on you, but YOU made that possible with your evasive answers and poor preparation.

NOBODY gave me any kind of a storyline, pre-packaged or otherwise. I came, sat, watched, listened and wrote my views of the night. Quite frankly, I was VERY disappointed that you didn't do better against Manso
or - he's an easy target.

I was ready a
nd eager to support your candidacy and, even after the forum, still had hope that you could elevate your game. However, this exchange here on Facebook has changed my mind. If this is your typical reaction when faced with adversity, then you're really not the kind of person I want to see in Sacramento. "

This morning she sent the following message to me: "The few people who attended have created the buzz that few people attended (the room was half empty chairs). The forum crashed this year because of its poor format and the inclusion of non pro journalists."

I saw it and fired this one back to her: "Leslie, before you ever contacted me I'd heard mutterings about your "style", but I was more than willing to listen to you and, as you know, have treated your contacts with respect and decorum. I WANTED you to be a good, strong candidate to replace Mansoor. Sadly, this episode has affirmed those things I'd heard about you.

You blame your poor performance on sparse attendance. It wasn't sparse and it wouldn't have made any difference. You would have bombed whether the room was packed to the rafters or was empty - it wasn't the room, it was YOU!

I acknowle
dge that you had folks up on the stage with you who arrived that night with preconceptions about you. That's life, kiddo. Knowing the players, you should have been even BETTER prepared for the questions. You were NOT.

I don't know what to expect at the next forum, but I'm planning to be there. I hope you do better with pre-packaged questions to which you can read answers.

Stop blaming everyone and everything except yourself for your miserable performanc
e. "

A couple minutes ago - early afternoon Saturday, she sent me this final comment. As you can see, it's only an echo of what she said before. "Geoff, you have been cordial towards me. You are hyping a forum that wasn't professionally conducted. Attendance was low because people perceive it to be Jerry Springer-like. That happens when you have opinion columnists on stage instead of pro journalists. Then a promoter who lashes out at candidates for talking too long but has no set rules on time allowance. Geez."


That's where we stand at this point and, under the circumstances, I doubt I'll hear much more from her. And, you're probably wondering why I gave you the text, verbatim. I could have just paraphrased our exchange for brevity, but I thought the tone of her messages - and mine, too, for that matter - was important. Clearly, she's not facing the reality that it was HER bad performance Thursday night - not the venue, the interrogators or the crowd - that caused her to have such a poor showing. It's REALLY going to take some convincing for me to support her candidacy now.

Quite frankly, this leaves me with a dilemma. I know I'm not going to vote for Allan Mansoor. I know too much about him as a council member in Costa Mesa and his track record in Sacramento is one of abject failure.

So, I'm going to get to know Bob Rush a little better and see how that goes. He may have been right on target with his response to a question Tom Johnson posed to the panel, asking what it will take to get effective representation for the 74th Assembly District in Sacramento. Rush blurted out, "Elect a Democrat". As a life-long Republican - I've been voting for a half-century - I can't remember EVER voting for a Democrat in a partisan race. Today I find myself wondering if a moderate Democrat, working with the Democrat majority in the Assembly, might not provide our district with more effective representation than sending a lock-step lemming, hard-line, ineffective Republican back up there.

In fact, because ANY Republican representing the 74th Assembly District will be fighting an uphill battle dealing with the overwhelming Democrat majority, maybe it's not such a bad idea to have an incompetent but malleable Republican sitting up there. I mean, why waste a "good Republican" in that seat? Our recent history shows that they are hard enough to find in the first place. In fact, now that I think about it a little more, maybe that's what Scott Baugh and his cronies in the OC GOP had in mind when they supported Mansoor for his current Assembly seat and are supporting him for this one.

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Friday, April 06, 2012

Feet To The Fire Forum Festivities

If any of the candidates at last night's Feet To The Fire Forum expected to come away with only moderately warm toes they were in for a rude awakening. The fire was turned up to "broil" most of the night.
Those of you who chose to stay home last night and watch television, or go to the Claim Jumper so you could Tip A Cop, missed the best game in town last night as the irrepressible Barbara Venezia and her merry band of cohorts from local media outlets mercilessly grilled the three remaining candidates for the 74th Assembly District before approximately 150 of your friends and neighbors, including some local political royalty - the very honorable Marian Bergeson.

Venezia, a columnist for the Orange County Register, was joined by former Daily Pilot publisher Tom Johnson, who recently took over operations of the Register's The Current weekly supplement; John Canalis, editor, and Jack Wu, new "conservative" columnist represented the Daily Pilot; Roger Bloom, editor of the Newport Beach Independent and Norberto Santana, Jr,. Editor-in-Chief of The Voice of OC.
They teamed up to interrogate candidates Leslie Daigle, Newport Beach Councilwoman; Allan Mansoor, presently Assemblyman from a district in which he no longer lives due to redistricting and Bob Rush, a Newport Beach resident and freshly-minted Democrat.

Former Newport Beach mayor Evelyn Hart got things rolling as she led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, then we all kind of sat back, expecting a nice, cordial little chat about issues. Wrong! It only took about 15 seconds before the candidates lit into each other. What followed was terrific drama and a very enlightening evening.
Canalis led things off with one of the real hot-button issues when he asked the candidates whether they supported a bridge over the Santa Ana River at 19th Street in Costa Mesa. Rush and Mansoor promptly said "NO", but Daigle waffled and tried to give the "long" answer. What immediately followed might be best described as a dog fight, as the candidates nipped at each other and the panelists kept tossing red meat into the fight.
Because Daigle paused with her answer Mansoor suggested she just stay on the city council until she can make up her mind about the bridge. Daigle asked Mansoor why, as a member of the Orange County Transportation Authority, didn't he get the bridge removed from the Master Plan of Arterial Highways during his tenure. Rush suggested that the bridge was dead so they should move on. It sounds pretty civilized, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't, but it was a lot of fun to watch, though.

Let me pause here for a second. From the get-go it was clear that, for the most part, it was going to be the boys against the girl. Mansoor and Daigle have been taking shots at each other for a couple months and Rush has long-standing bad feelings about Daigle. And, interrogator Wu and Daigle have recently gone round and round about a recent commentary Wu wrote. As I said, it was fun to watch.

I'm not going to try to quote chapter and verse of the meeting. The 90 minutes just flew by - it was kind of like watching a boxing match without any breaks in the rounds. I'll try to give you a few more highlights and remind you that the event was recorded for later viewing by a combined team from Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Irvine. Dane Bora and Brad Long of CMTV will handle the post-production, blending the video from the multiple cameras in the room last night and distribute the finished product for viewing on each city's television channels. That will probably be available for viewing late next week and will also be available on streaming video. I'll let you know when I know the play schedules.

Santana braced Mansoor with a question about Costa Mesa finances, and wondered how he felt about the constant criticism being leveled by members of the current council against those that Mansoor was on, accusing them of being the cause of Costa Mesa's current financial dilemma. Mansoor denied responsibility, saying he voted against the issues that caused it, and Daigle questioned his leadership.

When questioned about his recent conversion from "decline-to-state" to becoming a registered Democrat just before he filed to run for office, Rush explained that his views were moderate - not in line with the current leadership of the OC GOP, and that, because he is pro-choice, he felt there was no place for him in the Republican Party. He felt he could be much more effective in Sacramento as a Democrat.

Both Daigle and Mansoor were questioned about how they would make a difference in Sacramento as a member of the Republican contingent - a toothless tiger in recent years as the balance of power swung left. Neither had good answers to the question. Mansoor has a track record of basically no accomplishment during his nearly two years as an Assemblyman.

One interesting moment came when the discussion turned to Daigle's very unfortunate encounter with a security guard at the Corona del Mar High School track a few years ago. She was accused of threatening to have him deported and, because he was a Latino, is reported to have said, "I bet you live in Costa Mesa". It was a nasty - and clearly unforgettable - event that will dog her throughout her political career. She didn't deny the incident and explained that sometimes things happen you would have preferred not happen. Then, though, she shifted the "anti-immigrant" focus to Mansoor, pointing out his incident with Benito Acosta when Mansoor had him removed from council chambers - a move that resulted in a lawsuit against the city.
Mansoor has heard this all before and, in years past, would attempt to explain that he was the son of immigrants. This time, however, he choked-up and appeared to be near tears as he told the story. He denied he was anti-immigrant, pointing out that his girlfriend is an immigrant and a person on his campaign staff is, as well. Both young women have Vietnamese ancestry. I don't doubt he felt that emotion, but that never has, and didn't last night, explain his animosity against the Latino population in Costa Mesa. It was "illegal aliens" that got him elected twice.

At one point Johnson, attempting to get the candidates to explain how they expected to accomplish anything in Sacramento, used Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger as examples of guys who "get things done" - he referred to them as "bulls in a china shop" - a truly accurate description. Rush's answer was "Send a Democrat to Sacramento". Mansoor said something about "taking special interests out of Sacramento" - like that has a snowball's chance in Hades of ever happening. Daigle said it will take someone willing to work on both sides of the aisle. That's a nice theory, but the Republicans just don't have the numbers to make that work.

The discussion of Newport Beach's proliferation of rehab facilities generated some heated discussion. Rush became politically active because his neighborhood in West Newport became overrun by rehab facilities. He blamed Daigle's vote on the issue for opening the floodgates and mentioned his role in getting Newport's stricter regulations that have now squeezed many rehab venues out of town - and straight into Costa Mesa. He mentioned that a rehab facility can generate $250,000 per month - it's like printing money. Mansoor said he has legislation in the works, but didn't go into specifics. None of the three bills he authored during his term have passed.

Rush was asked at one point just why he got into the race, because some figured he was there to siphon off votes that might be cast for Daigle, who is a much more moderate Republican candidate than Mansoor. He claimed that he's in the race to win, not to be a distraction. We'll see. We do know he's committed $100,000 of his own money to the campaign and, he tells us, he's raised another $30,000 in the past couple weeks.
And on and on and on we went. Finally, Venezia wrapped things up with some very specific one-word-answer questions. She polled each candidate on them and demanded that they just give one-word answers. On Medical Marijuana, both Mansoor and Rush supported it and Daigle did not. Daigle and Rush are pro-choice and Mansoor is pro-life. Mansoor and Daigle oppose gay marriage and Rush supports it.

Last night's forum was much better than previous versions. The questioning was relentless, the exchanges between the candidates back and forth and with the interrogators gave you a pretty good picture of the styles of the individuals and the strengths - and lack thereof - each brings to the race. Venezia and her team are to be commended for putting on a great show. Personally, it was great to see Tom Johnson back in the mix again. His fingerprints are already all over the "new" Current and he was clearly ready for this experience. You can read Joe Serna's summary of the evening in the Daily Pilot, HERE.

I didn't do any official polling of the audience members. There were many partisans in the room, there to support their favorite candidate. Shown here are GOP Central Committee members Jeff Mathews and Allan Bartlett. It was my gut feeling that Daigle had the fewest supporters in attendance last night. I must say, though, that the audience seemed to be quite attentive and energized. Grumblings could be heard throughout the evening as candidates attempted to present their views.

Several acquaintances and I discussed our impressions immediately after the forum. Most of us agreed that Bob Rush looked and sounded the best. He was prompt and unambiguous with most of his answers, tended to stay out of the spats and generally looked much more polished. Mansoor continues to be, well, Mansoor. He's not a polished speaker, just as he is not a consensus builder. He's not quick on his feet and some of his answers were clearly scripted. Even so, most thought he was second last night. Daigle looked the least comfortable and had the hardest time presenting crisp answers to the questions - most thought she finished last. Those were my impressions, too.

As I looked around the half-filled room last night I saw many Republican operatives. Righeimer and Mensinger were in the room, for example. The only prominent Democrat I recognized - keeping in mind that I don't hang with those guys - was Orange County Employee's Association General Manager Nick Berardino, shown here on the left with fellow Fair Board member (and Barbara Venezia's husband), Stan Tkaczyk.
According to Venezia at the end, the only other candidate forum before the June 5th primary election will be held in Newport Beach on May 9th.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Hoping For Maturity And Truth - Disappointed

At last Tuesday's city council meeting we got a taste of what the next eight months are going to be like. We saw Mayor Eric Bever act like a petulant punk, barking back at many speakers who had tried to address grievances before the council, trying to "correct the record" when some of those "records" were made when he was in one of his many "days off" - when he stayed home instead of fulfilling the responsibilities of his office. Since he has not matured over the past dozen years I see no reason to believe he will grow up between now and when he, thankfully, leaves office following the November election.


Worse, though, were the prevarications of M
ayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer. Time after time he used his bully pulpit to present fabrications and flat out lies to the audience and viewers at home. The falsehoods were sprinkled throughout the evening, but the most memorable was his mischaracterization of what happened in Santa Ana.

Righeimer characterized the recent agreement between the Santa Ana government and the Orange County Fire Authority to provide fire and emergency medical service to that city as a "takeover" by the OCFA. He amplified that lie by saying it was just like the OCFA tried to do with Costa Mesa! You could almost see his nose growing as he spewed those words.


First, as is chronicled in the Orange County Register article about the contract, HERE, the OCFA did not "take over" Santa Ana. At the request of the City they made an offer to provide fire service to the city and it was accepted. According to the reports, it will save Santa Ana millions of dollars each year with no reduction in services. Both sides, including the rank and file firefighters of the SAFD apparently are happy with the deal.

In our case, in an e
ffort to provide an "expert" assessment of Costa Mesa's fire operations, the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association approached the city with an offer to pay for the OCFA to come in, do an assessment and make a bid to take over the fire and emergency medical responsibilities for our city. If the City chose to accept the proposal it would reimburse the CMFA half the cost.

Upon hearing the OCFA proposal - twice, over a period of months - the cou
ncil chose to just ignore it and pass up the millions of dollars in annual savings, so the Costa Mesa Fire Department continued to operate as usual, except with fewer people because this council refused to let the staff recruit new firefighters until they agreed to a second pension tier. So, in order to provide coverage at the levels necessary, thousands of hours of overtime have been logged by firefighters and fire leadership.


er, at one point in the last meeting, gritted his teeth, ranted again about "$300,000 firefighters" and spouted that he wasn't going to have anymore overtime. Of course, he has NO control over that issue. He, and his political agenda, is the reason overtime is being worked. He'll try to deny it, but he'll be lying when he does.

The City could have chosen to accept the OCFA's proposal and, even though most firefighte
rs would take a pay cut, they were willing to do so. The proposal would have saved millions of dollars each year, depending on which of the three choices the City preferred. Instead, Righeimer has chosen to wait until the CMFA contract comes up in 2014 and try to eviscerate that organization at that time.


I just can't let Righeimer's lies go by without comment. If the folks at home heard his rant they might believe him - a huge mistake on their part. Because nobody is allowed to refute his comments in real time, those lies just linger in the air like gas passed in an elevator, pretending to be truth. You can get the real truth at the Costa Mesa Firefighter's Association web site at

As we close this entry I'm going to leave you with an interesting, short, 3 minute video clip. Resident Terry Koken provided us with another memorable little ditty - one that will certainly make you chuckle.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

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Thursday Evening Will Be Very Busy

It's going to be a busy evening in Costa Mesa tomorrow, Thursday, April 5th. There are three events that will stretch your allegiances since they are all being conducted simultaneously. So, you have no reason to stay home, because there's a little something for everyone.



The next edition of Barbara Venezia's Feet To The Fire Forum will be held at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, 184
5 Park Avenue, Costa Mesa. (Lions Park). Venezia, as hostess, will be joined by local journalists John Canalis and Jack Wu of the Daily Pilot, former Daily Pilot publisher, Tom Johnson, now of the Orange County Register's The Current, Roger Bloom of the Newport Independent and Norberto Santana, Jr., of the Voice of OC.

Each of them will be grilling candidates for the newly-created 74th Assembly District, Allan Mansoor, Leslie Daigle and Bob Rush. Mansoor is pretending he's the incumbent, but he's not. His district was re-formed and he no longer lives within the boundaries. Daigle is a Newport Beach council member and Rush is a newly-minted Democrat who also lives in Newport Beach. I'm really interested in hearing what they have to say on issue like the 19th Street Bridge and Banning Ranch, for example.

The festivit
ies begin when the doors open at 6:30. The program starts promptly at 7:00. It should be fun.


At 6:00, in the Costa Mesa Emergency Operations Center (EOC) next door to the Police Department at 99 Fair Drive, the TeWinkle Park Athletic Complex Task Force will hold another meeting to try to flesh out whether that facility should be privately operated and, if so, what it should look like. This meeting will have the third iteration of a proposal by Big League Dreams, the outside firm assigned to this project by the City Council several months ago. I've attended many of the meetings. They are always informative and "spirited", since many of the community members who are part of this task force seem unconvinced that privatization of this community asset is the way
to go.


And, for what should REALLY be a fun event, from 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. at the Claim Jumper Restaurant in South Coast Plaza near Sears, there is a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. This event, Tip-A-Cop, will have Costa Mesa police officers acting as waiters and waitresses and everything you tip them will be donated to the Special Olympics. The poster for this event is below. If you can't read it just click on it to make it larger. I'm sorry I'm going to be down listening to Mansoor, Daigle and Rush duke it out. This event combines great grub, a fun time and an opportunity to contribute to a very worthy cause.

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