Friday, September 07, 2012

2016 Obama's America

OK, we don't do movie reviews here at A Bubbling Cauldron, and this is not going to change that philosophy.

That being said, today I took a little breather from all the local political chaos and went to see "2016 Obama's America".  I sat back in a large and nearly empty theater - maybe 30 other people joined me at the Edwards Big Newport 6 at Fashion Island for the mid-afternoon showing - sipped on my Diet Coke and nibbled my popcorn and watched.


I NEVER tell folks about a movie, just as I don't want folks to tell me about them.  I want to enjoy the suspense and the presentation.  I'm NOT going to tell you about this movie, except to say that - in my opinion - regardless which way you plan to vote for President of the United States in November you should see this film.

I've provided you with a link to Fandango, HERE, that will provide you with show times at several local theaters over this weekend.  Carve out 90 minutes, drag your body to a nice, cool theater and see this movie.  I don't expect you to report back on your experience - how you feel about this film is entirely up to you.  Enjoy...

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Except For 91101 Remembrance A Slow Week Ahead

Finally, a breather!  Next week, with the Study Session canceled, is going to be a slow one in Costa Mesa politics.  Thank goodness!  I can use the rest.

However, the City announced a brief ceremony to recognize the events of September 11, 2011 at City Hall on Tuesday, September 11th.  Here's the text of their message.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the community is invited to join City staff for a short ceremony and moment of silence to honor those who died during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The event begins at 9:45 a.m. at the City Hall flagpole. An American flag flown over the World Trade Center site will be at half-mast and a moment of silence will take place at 9:59 a.m. to commemorate those who lost their lives that day.

I look forward to seeing some of you there for this important, yet brief, program.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Insolence OK Now...

Lauren Williams wrote an article in the Daily Pilot yesterday, HERE, telling us that on Wednesday a federal appellate court held that a Costa Mesa ordinance that restricts "insolent" speakers when addressing the City Council is unconstitutional.  This springs from the Benito Acosta affair several years ago when Mayor Allan Mansoor cut him short while speaking to the council and Acosta was subsequently dragged from the council chambers and arrested. 

According to the article, by simply removing the word "insolent" from the code the remainder of the ordinance is constitutional.

Here's a definition of that word from

in-so-lent - boldly rude or disrespectful; contemptuously impertinent; insulting.


This is how the section of the Municipal Code, Section 2-61, presently reads:

  (Click on the image to enlarge)

So, I guess it's OK for you to be "boldly rude" or "disrespectful" or "contemptuously impertinent" and "insulting" when you address the council.  It's a little confusing because the definition of "insolent" includes impertinent yet the article says the code will be OK without that word.  If so, it will continue to contain "impertinent".  We need some clarity here.

However, apparently you may not make any personal, profane or slanderous remarks.  And, you can't yell at them, either - much as you might feel like it.

And, just in case you're interested, you can watch what happened to prompt this whole thing in the first place in this short video clip.  As you watch it you can use the timer to see that Mansoor does cut him off.  You'll also see then-Police Chief John Hensley direct the officers to take Acosta out.  Way down at the end of the tape, around the 4:50 point on the counter,  you'll see Phil Morello, President of the Costa Mesa Republican Assembly and organizer of the recent Tea Party "demonstration" at City Hall protesting the incident involving Jim Righeimer and the CMPD  in the upper right corner of the frame, hands cupped over his mouth, as he screams the words to "God Bless America" at the young woman who had been singing "We Shall Overcome". 

By the way, Acosta was recently seen at the demonstrations in Anaheim being escorted to a police car.  He was subsequently released.  Funny how some things - and people - just don't seem to change.

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Feet To The Fire Fun

Now THAT was fun!  Last night more than 300 of your friends and neighbors were treated to a very special event.  Just enough tough questions, pressed for answers by the interrogators, to make it memorable.  A leash just long enough to demonstrate which candidates found it necessary to disrupt the flow of the proceedings by inserting defensive comments out of turn.  Plenty of audience interaction to let the candidates know, in real time, that some were simply not buying what they were selling.  I don't recall any forum in recent years when candidates were actually boo'd by the audience, but that happened several times last night.  And the interrogators had their feet held to the fire, too.  As Jack Wu attempted to make a long, rambling statement one frustrated woman near me shouted out, "Just ask the question!"  Yes, it was fun last night.

Barbara Venezia and her journalist cohorts, John Canalis, Roger Bloom, Jack Wu and Frank Mickadeit, did a terrific job - some better than others - of interrogating six Costa Mesa City Council Candidates last night.  Venezia, decked out in brand new flaming leathers, picked up some of the slack created by the absence of panelist Norberto Santana, Jr., and expanded her moderatrix role to that of an interrogator, too.  She frequently pressed her questions, not letting candidates slip off the hook.  I had to smile as Bloom, normally a pretty easy-going guy, pressed candidates for answers.  At one point he reminded Mensinger that he wasn't running for school board when his answer drifted too far.  After his first question Mickadeit basically became an observer.  Wu wore the mantle of pit bull last night, aiming his questions at the so-called challengers.  Canalis warmed up slowly, then asked some tough questions as the event moved forward.  As I said, it was fun.

In the 90 minute program that just flew past candidates Sandy Genis, John Stephens, Harold Weitzberg, Colin McCarthy, Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan all had their "squirm" moments and most of them handled them well.

At the beginning I thought that, as I had feared, this event was going to take a very decidedly "pro-3M" tilt when their drinking buddy, Mickadeit,  started things off with a question directed at the three "challengers" - I guess Mickadeit is so close to our politics that he considers McCarthy an incumbent.   Of course, he's not.  Anyhow, he asked each whether they want to see Costa Mesa as a "Contract City" or a "Full Service City"?  He wanted to know if they oppose all forms of contracting or just some.

Weitzberg responded that we needed to be careful.  Genis said before contracting out quantifiable and measurable studies should be conducted.  She spoke of her previous tour on the city council from 1988 - 1996 and, referring to the current council's haste in their outsourcing scheme, said, "Before you jump off the high board be sure there's water in the pool."

Before Stephens could provide his answer Monahan butted in and referred to the alleged savings of $700,000 with the proposed Jail outsourcing to a private company and the alleged savings of $1.4 million by outsourcing Park Maintenance to a private company - both of which have been approved but await the resolution of the lawsuit.  He also mentioned Payroll.  Stephens finally had his chance to answer and said he would NOT outsource public safety and referred to selling off the assets - primarily fire fighting equipment - as trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.


In broad brush strokes, here's my reaction to each of the candidates last night, presented in the order in which they sat on the stage last night.

Harold Weitzberg
He may have been the strongest, most articulate speaker last night.  He answered the questions crisply and with confidence.  He did not attempt to dodge the question that some voters will have about him - his wife's medical marijuana dispensary.  He explained the background - her own personal pain and inability to find relief from it with traditional pharmaceuticals - that caused her to begin using medical marijuana for relief, then establish a safe, clean dispensary to help others in her situation.  He supports a small, tightly-regulated medical marijuana industry in Costa Mesa.  His explanation gave perspective to the broader discussion of the issue later.

Colin McCarthy
If body language tells you anything, his slouching and smirking told me that he was peeved at actually having to answer the questions.  He frequently interrupted the proceedings with condescending comments.  Based on the crowd reaction, I suspect he didn't gain many voters last night.  Sorry, I didn't have a usable photo of Colin from last night... he slouched down so far that I couldn't see him.

Steve Mensinger

As a few people commented to me after the event, Mensinger finally heard how many people beyond his own small circle of acquaintances feel about him.  His answers were the "most boo'd" last night.  He took it in stride and continued to flex his ego at every opportunity.  He, once again, mentioned that he didn't like the criticism because "his kids watch"... It seems to me that he is much too thin-skinned for public office.  He's more suited - as he indicated when he was sworn in eighteen months ago - to coaching youth football.  That's a place where being a dictator is acceptable behavior.

Sandra Genis
She clearly was comfortable on the stage.  She answered the questions with facts and waited courteously to be recognized to respond to questions and statements of others.  Her answers were authoritative, based on her previous eight years on the council and her professional background as a land use consultant and she appeared to keep her humor all evening.

Gary Monahan
Based on his performance last night, Monahan is in trouble.  He was defensive most of the evening.  When Venezia asked him directly about his ability to commit time to the job if re-elected, his answer was a classic tap-dance.  We all recall that he stepped away from the mayor's position earlier this year, citing family and business demands.  When Venezia pressed him he said he had time to be a council member, but didn't have time for "all that glad-handing" that being the mayor involved.  Since he's recently missed all or big parts of recent meetings it's becoming increasingly clear that it's time for Gary to spend time where HE feels it's needed - with his family and business.  This began on St. Patrick's Day, 2011, when he chose to stay at his bar, pulling beer taps on what he told a member of the media was "the biggest day of my life" rather than fulfill his responsibilities as mayor on the worst day in the City's history - the day of the 213 layoff notices and Huy Pham jumping off the roof.  It's time for Gary to step away... the electorate should help him with that decision in November.

John Stephens
He may have been the best-prepared person on the stage last night.  His responses to questions about Jim Righeimer's Charter were clear and carefully documented.  He has actually recently read the charters for EVERY Orange County Charter City to put the proposed charter in perspective.  He had chapter and verse down pat.  He deftly deflected Mensinger's attempt to portray him as uninterested in Costa Mesa schools because his children have attended catholic schools by reiterating his heavy involvement in youth sports in town.

In addition to a discussion of Jim Righeimer's Charter - Righeimer was perched on a chair in the front of the room - the candidates fielded questions about the Banning Ranch traffic agreement, medical marijuana dispensaries, civility at council meetings and the obvious lack of involvement by Latinos in city government - something we here have mentioned several times over the years.

When asked by Venezia why some folks consider him a bully, Mensinger answered, in part, "People who call you a bully usually don't like your decisions."  As the audience groaned I found myself thinking, "No, Steve, it's because they don't like your actions!"  Geez, is he obtuse!


A lively discussion ensued on the subject of Righeimer's recent unpleasant encounter with the CMPD.  Weitzberg and Stephens criticized him for blowing it up into a national issue.  Stephens said that by going on John and Ken (radio show) and being in the media non-stop for days that Righeimer damaged the "Costa Mesa Brand".

When Canalis asked the Charter supporters why they did so, McCarthy said the city should have been a Charter City 59 years ago, and that we could save millions, following the Righeimer party line.  Stephens rebutted with facts - pointing out that most of the California cities currently facing serious financial difficulties - bankruptcy, in many cases - were Charter cities.  He went on to point out specific areas in Jim Righeimer's Charter that are problematic, specifically the one dealing with no-bid contracts and the deletion of a requirement for annual audits.  Weitzberg pointed out that it does not enumerate council powers and, as a result, may be in violation of state laws passed to prohibit "Bell" situations.

Bloom brought up the Banning Ranch traffic mitigation agreement, pointing out that Newport Beach negotiated a deal with the developer that was ten-times more lucrative than Costa Mesa's. He asked why no hard-ball negotiations took place.  Monahan attempted to explain that it was a good deal, better than we could have expected to receive legally because the project was not in Costa Mesa.  Genis corrected him, pointing out the deals made in Irwindale, Walnut and Diamond Bar when a football stadium was planned for that area.  She clearly demonstrated that it's helpful to be smart and have actual knowledge of facts.

Bloom pushed the "Latino" question, asserting that the nearly 40% of the population of the city were under-represented and suggested that electing council members by districts - as is done in Newport Beach - might change that.  In a quick "yes or no" poll posed by Bloom, only Weitzberg said he would support electing council members by district.  McCarthy, Mensinger and Monahan said "no" and Genis and Stephens hedged their bets.  As the discussion played out Mensinger, who has been heavily involved in Estancia High School sports, touted that school as a GREAT school - it may well be.  He said "they" don't want to be considered "Latinos", "they" want to be considered Americans.  All of that may be true, but it didn't answer the question - how to involve a huge segment of the population in the governance process.  McCarthy pointed out that the Westside - where many Latinos reside - is presently represented by two council members.  That would be Wendy Leece and Eric Bever.  In the case of Bever, our part-time, part-time lame duck mayor, the thought of him "representing" the Latinos in his part of town makes me chuckle.


Last night the only Estancia students in attendance were staffing the campaign tables for McCarthy, Mensinger and Monahan in the rear of the room.  On the other hand, Newport Harbor High School government teacher Michele Lee had most of her class at the forum, taking notes and learning how government works.  Her students have been frequent visitors to city council meetings over the past few years.  Maybe that's where increased Latino involvement should begin...

You can read Mike Reicher's take on the event in his Daily Pilot article, HERE, and you can reade Elysse James coverage from the Orange County Register HERE.

You REALLY need to watch this event for yourselves to get the flavor of the evening.  Dane Bora and Brad Long from CMTV filmed the proceedings for later replay.  Here's that schedule for your viewing pleasure.  You can also view it on streaming video at the City web site once it's uploaded later today.  Venezia also arranged to have it live-streamed last night.  Early reports from views indicate spotty coverage.

The next candidate forum is on Thursday, September 20th at the same venue.  Our friends at Costa Mesa United will host an event that will include all the council candidates plus the three members of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District who retained their seats without being on the ballot because they were un-challenged.  The issues to be discussed at that forum are related to athletics, academics and activities.  More on that one later.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Council Meeting Wrap Up

Well, the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night was short, but not without it's interesting moments, beginning with the fact that Eric, "I didn't sign up for this!", Bever was absent - again.  Of course, that's a mixed blessing.  Left without his possible "tie-breaker" vote it's possible that items on the agenda might not receive a proper decision.  I say that with tongue in cheek, since the council still had the majority, even without Bever.  And, without him on the dais, interrupting speakers and chiding others, things seem to have run much more smoothly.  The folks who vote for positions on the Mesa Consolidated Water District should remember that in November.

That left Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer in charge - always an adventure.  Right off the bat he juggled the agenda,  bringing the last item on it - the two Fire Side Letters -  forward to be considered first.  More on that in a minute.

I was amused when a couple of the early speakers during Public Comments were obviously imported hacks, spouting the anti-union party line.  In fact, one of those guys - "Martin Thomas" -  actually mentioned my blog - twice.  I didn't have a chance to thank him for the publicity because he and his crony - "Ari David" - skulked out of the auditorium shortly after speaking.

We also had the first masked speaker I can recall.  A gentleman, later identified by his companion speaker as Pedro Paramo, addressed the council in Spanish, apparently cautioning the city to not turn into another Bell and referring to that city's corrupt police department.  I suspect none of the council members understood a single word he spoke.  Mr. Paramo apparently is the editor of, an online watchdog organization focused primarily on southeast Los Angeles County.

As mentioned, Righeimer juggled the agenda, moving the discussion of the two Fire Department Contract Side Letters from the end to the beginning.  I believe he did that because $300 per hour labor negotiation/lawyer Richard Kreisler was there to answer questions.  The short version of events is that the council approved the action proposed by the staff report, HERE, 4-0.  The following is the text from the staff report that summarizes the agreements in question.

The Costa Mesa Firefighters Association (CMFA) agreed to:

1. Current employees covered by this agreement shall contribute 5% of the employee’s PERSable earnings towards their employee retirement contribution through June 30, 2017. This contribution will begin retroactive to the pay period beginning July 1, 2012.

2.The City will implement the 2%@50 CalPERS Benefit Formula for new employees. New employees covered by the 2%@50 CalPERS Benefit Formula shall contribute 9% of the employee’s PERSable earnings towards their employee retirement contribution.

3.Suspension of the RHS (Retirement Health Savings) Program - neither employee nor employer provides 1% retiree medical funding through June 30, 2017.

4.Through and including June 30, 2017, there shall be no base salary adjustments.

5.Staffing level – minimum staffing of Article 12.1 is null and void and to be replaced by Fire Department Operational Restructuring document (Exhibit A of Attachment A) prepared by the Fire Chief.

6. The there shall be no extension of the CMFA MOU expiring on June 30, 2014.

The Costa Mesa Fire Management Association (CMFMA) also agreed to six points:

1. Current employees covered by this agreement shall continue contributing 5% of the employee’s PERSable earnings towards their employee retirement contribution through June 30, 2017. This contribution will begin retroactive to the pay period beginning July 1, 2012.

2. The City will implement the 2%@50 CalPERS Benefit Formula for new employees. New employees covered by the 2%@50 CalPERS Benefit Formula shall contribute 9% of the employee’s PERSable earnings towards their employee retirement contribution.

3. Suspension of the RHS (Retirement Health Savings) Program -neither employee nor employer provides 1% retiree medical funding through June 30, 2017
4. Through and including June 30, 2017, there shall be no base salary adjustments.

5. Staffing level – minimum staffing is null and void and to be replaced by Fire Department Operational Restructuring document (Exhibit A of Attachment B) prepared by the Fire Chief.

6. The City’s contribution towards employees’ medical and health care benefit frozen at the 2010 level shall continue to be frozen for calendar year 2013.

So, that is that!  Now it's time to get cracking on Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold's plan for the reorganization of the Fire Department that was so roundly supported a month ago.

It is unknown at this time precisely what effect, if any, Governor Brown's recent proposal for Pension Reform will have on these agreements.  Kreisler provided scenarios of what MIGHT happen in January, but there's the strong possibility that this law, AB 340, will change dramatically before the effective date in what Kreisler called "clean up legislation".  I glanced at Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, observing from the audience, and saw a slight smile when he heard that statement.

In a further bit of juggling, Righeimer next took Old Business #3, Steve Mensinger's Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN) scheme, HERE.  This was the second reading and Kreisler stayed to provide legal support.  After much discussion, during which the majority once again stiff-armed Wendy Leece's request to broaden this "transparency" initiative to include other communications besides those related to labor issues.  No, sir - this was just another initiative aimed directly at the forehead of the employee associations.  Mensinger didn't much care for the criticism, either.  Nothing new about that.  It passed on a 4-0 vote.

Next came what should have been the first item on the agenda, the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force report.  You will recall that this was shoved off until tonight from the last council meeting two weeks ago - but not before making the staff and consultants cool their heels in the auditorium until 11:00 p.m. that night.

Assistant CEO Rick Francis and consultant Muriel Ullman presented the overview and the report, HERE.  You can read that report to see the progress that's been made and where the City plans to focus its efforts downstream.  Not unexpectedly, "problem motels" were a major issue and the staff is expected to turn up the heat on them by way of increased visits for "inspections".  When Mensinger suggested that we eliminate all long term stays legal counsel cautioned that they are, after all, businesses operating within the rules.  I had the impression that certain members on the dais didn't much care about that.  They don't like rules, period.  Speakers opined that the "problem" of the transient population seems to be moving around as enforcement is tightened up in one area, a little like squeezing Jello.  Francis agreed and suggested that new plans need to be devised to manage that element.  The council voted to receive and file this report and await the next progress report in six months.

At 10:20 the council finally briefly spoke about the new Wireless Telecommunication Facilities in Public Places ordinance, generated by the installation earlier this year of this monstrosity in my neighborhood, HERE.  The ordinance passed on a 3-0 vote - Righeimer is in the business, so was out of the auditorium for the discussion and vote.

The council, after the briefest of discussions, agreed to a plan for Permit Parking on Ballow Lane and then adjourned to the next council meeting on September 17th at 10:35 p.m.  Yea!  A meeting finished in the same day!

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Feet To The Fire Forum Tonight

Just a quick reminder that Register columnist Barbara Venezia and her merry band of journalist/interrogators will be conducting the most recent in their series of Feet To The Fire forums tonight, Wednesday, at the Costa Mesa Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Avenue (Lions Park).  The doors open at 6:30 and the program begins at 7:00.  Barbara tells me that it should wrap up by 8:30 or thereabouts.

Joining Barbara as interrogators will be John Canalis, Daily Pilot Managing Editor, Roger Bloom, Managing Editor of the Newport Beach Independent, Jack Wu, Daily Pilot columnist and Frank Mickadeit, Register columnist.

Six of the seven Costa Mesa city council candidates have been invited to attend.  It's my understanding that Steve Mensinger, Gary Monahan, Colin McCarthy, Sandra Genis, Harold Weitzberg and John Stephens will attend and be grilled by the panel.  Candidate Al Melone was not invited to this event.

I expect this forum to be a little more lively than the one last week.  Personally, I'm going to be very interested to see if Mickadeit applies a level hand with his questions since he's a drinkin' buddy of the current power elite in Costa Mesa.  We'll know in about 12 hours.

Costa Mesa Television will be on hand to tape the proceedings for later broadcast.  I'll publish the replay schedule when it's available.

Another interesting feature is that this one may be available on streaming video via the internet.  Venezia has made arrangements for someone to broadcast live from her web site.  So, if you can't make it tonight - or just want to stay home and watch the Cowboys play the Giants in the season opener - you may be able to view this meeting on your computer.  Just click on her link,  If you do use this feature please let me know how it turned out.  Otherwise, see you this evening.

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Costa Mesa Honors Olympians

Several hundred people gathered on the lawn of the Costa Mesa Civic Center Tuesday afternoon to honor Costa Mesa Olympians.  Misty May-Treanor, April Ross, Sharon Day and Jake Gibb were on hand, as were Assistant Olympic Gymnastics coaches Jenny Liang and Hao Quan Liang.  Olympian Kyla Ross was unavailable due to a prior commitment.

City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch was the master of ceremonies for this very special event.  He was joined on the stage by Costa Mesa council members Wendy Leece, Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger and, later, by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor.

The vivacious young women of the Costa Mesa High School Cheer Squad were on hand to cheer every Olympian as they received their individual recognition.

The Olympians mingled with the crowd before the ceremony and signed autographs for eager admirers.

Young Abagail Garcia from Estancia High School sang the National Anthem.

Each Olympian spoke passionately about their lives in Costa Mesa and how proud they are to have attended school in our local schools.

Day, a Costa Mesa High School product, spoke of her life growing up in Costa Mesa, the coaching she received and her pride in the city.

Ross and May-Treanor, who both attended Newport Harbor High School but were residents of Costa Mesa, both expressed pride in being part of this community.  May-Treanor, a three-time Olympic Gold medalist, addressed the young people in the crowd and then de facto passed the torch to Ross, who won the Silver medal in London.

Gibb, a Utah native, makes his home in Costa Mesa and hopes to raise his young son here.

Mr. and Mrs. Liang, who coached Kyla Ross and were coaches on the Olympic team, expressed pride in the City and gratitude to be a part of the Olympic movement.
Kudos to Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce and the rest of the city staff for putting on yet another very inspirational event.  It's one more reason why Costa Mesa is a great place to live.

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