Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Never Too Old To Learn...

I learned several things at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting last night.  Let me begin this post by simply listing some of them for you... (You can read Bradley Zint's coverage in the Daily Pilot HERE and watch the streaming video of the meeting HERE)

I learned that "stayed-too-long-at-the-dance" council member Gary Monahan can still arrive at a council meeting with something to say - he told me that, by name, from the dais last night as he began his "council member comments" - but that he no longer has the stamina or interest to stick it out for an entire meeting.  He left early last night when he had to recuse himself from an item on the agenda and probably went back to his bar to pull beer taps for the crowd gathered to watch the MLB All Star game.  And, no, it wasn't the last item to be considered - there was still business to be conducted.

I learned that Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger doesn't like it when other members of the council have more information on an issue than he does because those council members actually took the time to do their homework on the issue and he didn't.

I learned that, while the city staff generally does a terrific job carrying out their tasks, they are not perfect and occasionally make a mistake.

I learned that the specter of losing one's home can motivate folks who would never otherwise even consider speaking up in public to present their concerns to the council, looking for relief.

I learned that, while we like to assume the developers trying to do projects in our city are really smart guys, that's not always the case.

And I learned that Mayor Jim Righeimer is such a vindictive man that he may have slandered a former employee last night while defending his position on his latest effort to turn Costa Mesa into a Charter City.

That last item got me so angry at Righeimer that it impaired my ability to post my summary of the meeting last night... so, here we are this morning, still angry but ready to rumble...  So let's get that last one out of the way first so we can focus on other things later.

Last night frequent speaker Robin Leffler used her three minutes to play a short video clip of Righeimer from council meeting at which the Charter Committee members were selected stating that their task was to determine IF the city needed a charter.  I provided the text of his statement in an earlier post.  This issue has been resolved to the satisfaction of the facilitators of the process and the committee is moving forward, but Leffler apparently felt it was necessary to remind us that we should not trust what Righeimer says from the dais.  In fact, she showed the clip twice - a nice touch, I thought.

Then, during his Council Member Comments segment, Righeimer chose to defend the current process and when speculating about how it might be slowed down he included the following statement in his little riff:

"I remember last time, we had a city employee, a City Clerk, who for whatever reason decided not to file it with the county so it didn't get on the ballot, okay?   Now, in the end, you know, she wasn't criminally charged.  She didn't go to jail, she just resigned.  But it was put on by the council, the elected officials to say 'Do you want to vote on this or not?' and an employee just decided to not turn it in."

Well, that's a whole lot of revisionist history.  Practically up until the day she left her job with the City Folcik's action that prevented Jim Righeimer's Charter from being placed on the June Primary ballot was being actively defended in court by The City as "a clerical error".  Then they threw her under the bus...

A little later, when speaking about actions the council has taken, Righeimer said:
"If you don't like people on the council just vote them out.  We've all got other things to do."

Those seem like words to remember next fall.

I was amused when Monahan, who was not in attendance when the council adjourned to the closed session at 5:00 p.m., came scampering into the chambers shortly after 6:00, just after the roll was called.  I was further amused when he made a big deal of telling me that he had something to say last night - he and I smiled at each other.  Then he began...

He wondered about the status of yet another restaurant that is supposed to open at The Triangle (which he referred to as Triangle Square).  Since that would mean another competitor for the community booze dollar only a block away from his gin mill, I guess I understand his concern.

He agreed with others who complained about the fireworks over the long, long, long Independence Day celebration.  He thanked the CMPD and the CMFD for their efforts over that time.  (As an aside, HERE is an excellent "after action" report prepared by Captain Rob Sharpnack of the CMPD for that holiday).  He went on to talk about the difficulty working a fire works booth, and about the difficulty trying to police the evening's events.  He said, "There's only so many officers to go around".  Really?  No kidding!  He suggested that Costa Mesa "always has been a fireworks city" and that the only way to get rid of them is to ban them via the ballot box.

He talked about the lights at Harper School - Wendy Leece has appealed the Parks and Recreation Commission decision to deploy lights there for another year.  He defended the Parks and Recreation Commission decision and ranted on and on, including a segment where, in response to the suggestion that the fields at the Fairview Developmental Center be used more, he wondered why Fairview was a target - "because they are handicapped or because they are low income?"   By this time I realized that Monahan had forgotten that you're supposed to engage your brain before opening your mouth.  He closed his rant by observing that the street beside his restaurant - part of the GREAT EASTSIDE RE-PAVING that has been going on for months - cost him a ton of money.

He did not return to the meeting after he recused himself from the consideration of the 208 apartment unit project discussion - the project is within 500 feet of his gin mill, across the freeway.  So, he failed to participate in the discussion of the last item covered - the other General Plan Screening issue at the corner of 17th Street and Superior Avenue.

One of the low points was Mensinger attempting to criticize Leece, and later Genis, because they actually did their homework on the Code Enforcement issue.  He ranted about "not having all the information they had", so he wanted to not consider the item.  I, and others, wanted to stand up and shout, "Do your homework, dummy!", but we didn't.  Instead both Leece and Genis calmly explained just why they  choose to dig deeper into the issue.  As a result, at least a couple parties listed to have a lien placed on their property were removed from the list.  It's a good thing at least a couple council members think doing their homework is a good idea for the residents of the city.

As a result of Genis' and Leece's action the Code Enforcement and Finance staffs will investigate ways to tighten up the system.  That's a good thing.

During the presentation of New Business #2, the 208 apartments proposed near the intersection of Ford Road and Newport Boulevard, more than 20 people stood to express concern that the residents had NOT been told of this project, nor "noticed" for the meeting.  They only heard about it when one of the residents saw an article about it in the Daily Pilot and sounded the alarm.  They were, and probably still are, concerned about losing their homes in the Rolling Hills Mobile Home Park - the site of the project.  Twenty-five people spoke - actually, 24, but one guy spoke twice - and most had the same theme.  They said the ownership of the park had "promised them" that they would be able to live there until they died!  They had no idea the property was up for sale!  Many residents are infirm/elderly and don't have another move in them.  (If this sounds familiar, it should.  We heard the same thing about the recent closure of the Anchor Trailer Port earlier this year).

In the end, after an hour and three-quarters of discussion, it turned out that the developer didn't really have ALL the property tied up.  Seems he neglected to acquire the key piece of property - where Orange Coast Trailer Supply is located - that would be the main entrance!  The owner of that property, Larry Sutton, (shown here) stepped up and told the council that his property is NOT for sale - the crowd cheered.  So, the council voted, 4-0, to deny the General Plan change for this project.
Righeimer, however, gave a wake up call to the euphoric crowd when he reminded them that the property is "in play", and that it's likely that "something" will be happening to it soon.  Either the current developer will be back with a plan that actually works, or someone will buy it and put a commercial building on it - no council approval would be required for that use, or someone might buy the park and probably raise the rent.  None of those choices will be good for the current residents.

New Business #1, heard last and minus Monahan, was not as controversial, but interesting because that developer had worked hard and, at the last minute, acquired the property at the corner of 17th Street and Superior Avenue that made his project much more attractive - to some.  Unfortunately, the "noticed" item only had the original 29 units.  The modified plan now had 49!  He will be back with a new plan, including potential mitigation measures for traffic at one of the busiest intersections in Costa Mesa.  It will be interesting to see how this one goes, since it would add hundreds of trips each day to that site.

The meeting, which could have ended at 8, finally drew to a close at 10:40 p.m.!  August 6th is the next meeting - the only one until after Labor Day since the council decided last time to cancel the August 20th meeting.

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Anonymous Ron Skolnik said...

I hope Julie Folcik sues this little punk into the next century.

7/17/2013 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous CM Pessimist said...

Riggy has it all wrong. Ms. Folcik did him a great service. Seeing how voters were not able to vote his plagiarized charter down until November, he got to parade all over town for an extra 6 months attempting to sell his doomed opus to the electorate. Ms. Folcik kept his dream alive; albeit on life support. Show some class, Righeimer. Publicly apologize to Ms. Folcik, and while you're at it, give her one of your coveted Mayor's awards.

7/17/2013 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

No notice given to the residents at the mobile home park? Plans to overbuild ( I'm looking at the plans right now) that parcel to the max with inadequate parking, crowding more people into an already crowded area-
What the hell is going on here?
I haven't even mentioned the human element here.
Seniors,many disabled who were promised to live out their years there and based their decisions to buy their mobile homes on that promise are now learning it was a dream, nothing more.
The people running this insane race to turn our city into a "business" at any cost have now abdicated all responsibility to the residents of Costa Mesa because that is what these people are- Costa Mesa residents, and fine ones at that!
Yes, it was stalled, in good part due to Sandy and Wendy who care about residents.
Steve said it was " a good plan". No, it's not!
There are things that are more important than making money, Steve. They are called people.
btw, Julie Folcik was a fine, dedicated CM City Clerk for many years. For Riggy to trash her last night was outrageous and showed us he doesn't take responsibility for anything that goes wrong, but he sure takes the credit when things go right.
What a "leader"!

7/17/2013 05:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Chauffeur to the polls said...

sounds like Righeimer's attitude toward the residents of the trailer park is "screw you"! He is right about one thing, we can vote him out. And we will. I will personally make sure that every resident in that park is driven to the polls. We got rid of Bever, now let's get rid of the Butthead.

7/17/2013 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Will Pay for Moving Van said...

It gets clearer every day-

Costa Mesa will be Napoleon Righeimer's Waterloo.

If he can't afford to be with the bosses in Newport, then he should move to Coachella.

7/17/2013 06:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Davey Developer said...

Dear Mayor,

I'm trying to buy up land where there's a lot of poor and elderly on it so I can develop it better. The junior mayor thinks ideas like this are fantastic. If I can displace more than 12 helpless people, can I get a mayor's award?

What if I help trigger a premature death or aggravate an illness?

Just asking.

7/17/2013 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Idiots on the dias said...

If Riggy has so much other things to do, PLEASE just go do it. We won't hold you back. Gary too. I'd think, if he had any decency at all, he'd just resign. But then again, anyone who acted like he did when Huy died, clearly has no decency, compassion or integrity. Everything is just about money with these guys.

7/17/2013 07:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Who Are You Kidding? said...

Karen, he even takes credit when there is nothing for him to take crediit for.

7/17/2013 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

City Attorney Tom Duarte was charged by Council to get the Charter on the ballot. He was put in the lead. A good leader sets up a timeline, and a check list.
He was there......he never did his job.
Julie got inundated with a herculean task , on top of the many others being thrown at her at the time.....and she messed up.
But the responsibilty lies with the person who was tasked with leading the project...Tom Duarte.
There was no conspiracy , collusion, or caper being pulled. This was strictly a staff being stretched beyond capacity , in a new realm they weren't comfortable in,.....and the one contracted lead point person not doing his job.Duarte needs to wake up....literally,....quit sleeping during the meetings and WAKE UP.

7/17/2013 08:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Gee Geoff, I was just giving the mayor a chance to explain. And hoping the Charter Committee would be allowed to be more than a rubber stamp collection for the majority. To be fair, the mayor did say it was OK for the committee to consider the option, maybe discuss it for an hour or so and then move on. They have his permission to do that now, so I guess they can, if they only take an hour or so and then move on. He said it twice for emphasis.

But then again, maybe they can’t. It didn’t get any easier for the public to figure when we can rely on what he says and when even he thinks we shouldn’t. He said that on May 7 he didn’t have the authority to say the committee would determine “whether we want to do a charter or not”. Did something change by July 16 that made it Ok for him to give the committee direction from the dais? When he generously permitted the committee to think independently (for an hour or so and then move on) he may have been confused about whether or not he has the authority to allow them to think for themselves.

According to Jim himself he didn’t have authority on May 7 to give such direction without a vote of the council to back it up. Right after he said that, he again confidently opined on what the committee could do. My questions are still the same. Can we belive what he says? Does he know what he is talking about? Obviously he can and does say anything he wants to, even if he has to interrupt the public or another council member to say it. It’s still just as hard to figure out when the public can rely on what he says, especially when he says his statements are not always reliable. I had hoped so much that he would clear it up.

7/17/2013 11:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

An elective despotism was not the government we fought for.--Thomas Jefferson

7/17/2013 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

Jim’s comments about Julie Folcik are flat out unethical. If she caused the problem without direction from a superior, the City would not have ended it with a settlement and a gag order –on all parties. There would have been hoopla and a press conference if the facts were favorable to the Rig-world view. His statements are disturbing because of what they reveal about his ethics. Jim was privy to the closed session negotiations and party to the settlement agreement. He knows that since he is in a position of public trust he is not allowed to reveal what goes on in a closed session, even to his best buddy or his wife. Even if it were a ordinary lawsuit and he was a private citizen and there was a settlement that prohibited the parties from revealing any details, he would be legally and morally bound not to reveal anything about it. The standard is higher for an elected official. (Don't laugh, cynical friends)

There are two possibilities here. He has revealed details of a closed session and can’t be trusted. Or he presented his guesses and speculation as facts ( also known as lying) and can’t be trusted. He painted himself into a corner here, because no matter what his motivation there is not another option. His behavior was not of a trustworthy person.

BTW Geoff, didn’t his brother-in-law threaten you with legal action if you didn’t stop writing unfavorable things about Riggy? Here’s the short list: Rig’s character traits: Unethical, untrustworthy, hypocritical.

I came within a couple of inches of voting for the guy, then I heard about things from Fountain Valley contacts. Same guy, same character traits, less gullible voters in FV. Wake up Costa Mesa. Even to my friends who supported the guy. Wake up.

7/18/2013 12:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Dive Party @ Garys' Bar said...

The stress is getting to Gary and everybody can see it. He checked out a long time ago and is only showing up once in a while for the medical benefits. His drinking establishment is no better than Tony's dive bar down the street and the new & nice upscale bars that are coming into the area are going to slowly push his crappy little bar right out of business.

7/18/2013 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

Some of you will be surprised to hear me say this, but the Mayor was right. The trailer park is privately held and an investment. The investment pays off when you exit the holding. The current owner has the right to sell it and the new owner has the right to develop it within the scope of the general plan.

The nasty reality is that all renters, no matter what the manner of dwelling, reside at the whim of the owner. Properties can be repurposed, rehabilitated and made expense or razed. This is difficult for the low income and elderly, but it is all very normal business.

What good can come from this? 1) A buyer who is more humanitarian than profiteer can purchase it and allow the residents to stay (not economically feasible), 2) the city could use the "hotel" money and allow the residents to stay (not really the job of local government) or 3) the residents can see the grim writing on the wall and work with local social services agencies to get relocated before something tragic happens.

It is all sad, but you can't hang the Mayor on this one (and only this one.)

7/18/2013 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Gary Needs To Sell Booze said...

If Rolling Hills, Ponderosa, and Sand Piper were torn down , Gary would loose more than half of his business. Gary needs these places to stick around more than anybody.

7/18/2013 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

@Mary Ann:

You're right about the mobile park owner's right to sell and make a profit.

The questions revolve around how the city will apply applicable laws if a transition ends up taking place. One school of thought says that the mayor and his allies always bend the rules and regulations for the benefit of developers to the detriment of other citizens.

Let's see what develops.

7/18/2013 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

As you know, the City has no Mobile Home Park Closure Ordinance, although the need was very clear in the wake of the El Nido/Snug Harbor fiasco. I don't think we're going to see anything like that with the strong developer orientation of the council majority.

Righeimer was not trying to be cruel when he told the speakers the real facts of life about that property. There are NO good options for the residents if the property is sold.

7/18/2013 05:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Chauffeur to the polls said...

I don't care, I'm still going to drive all of them to the polls to vote against that bunch. Just for humanity's sake.

7/18/2013 08:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

Joe, I agree 100%, but I not making a noose until he actually does bend the rules. There is plenty about which to be angry in the here and now - I certainly don't need to project.

7/18/2013 09:34:00 PM  
Anonymous My two cents said...

Gary Needs To Sell...Out.

The residents that showed up were articulate, well dressed and sober. They smelled ok too, pretty much. Most of us have hot and cold running water and can afford soap. Was your comment a put-down on Mobile Home residents or Gary;s patrons? You would still be insulting 95% of Moblie Home residents. Please try again and be clearer about who you are insulting. I want to know if you are insulting me. If it's Gary or his bar, don’t step on the Mobile Homeowners to do it.

Gary Needs To... man-up and attend to business- City business. Some of us bought that old line of his “I’m for the little guy”. Now I get it –he’s the little guy and it’s all about what’s good for Gary! That’s insulting enough. Can I take back my vote?

7/18/2013 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

To Who Are You Kidding?

That is very true.

7/19/2013 01:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Sam Grady said...

Hey Geoff, Did you see this response in the Daily Pilot by resident Dominick Giambona? Pretty interesting reading.

Dear Mr. Zint, This is Costa Mesa yet why do I think I am in the City of Bell. What your article failed to mention was that the developer had applied for zoning change June 11th. July 16th it was brought before the city council. (One month... The city doesn't move that fast.) The developer also misrepresented that the Mobile Home Park owns the easement. It does not. Furthermore, the presentation involved three parcels yet it was brought to the city council with only one parcel owner’s signature. (The article said Larry Sutton wouldn't sell thus eluding to the fact that his signature was missing.) Mr. Zint, there are proper procedures and channels that need to be taken and adhered to. There are questions as to misuse of Costa Mesa Resources, time and money. To push something that was clearly not following the proper channels and papers that were not signed or incomplete, and procedures that were circumvented thus wasting the city councils time. Mr. Ruben Vives and Jeff Gotlieb, of the LA Times, were not looking for a scandal in the City of Bell, they stumbled upon it. It was then they switched gears and started digging to reveal the corruption. Mr. Zint, you are sitting on a story that has smells of pay-offs misappropriation of resources and conflict of interest. You should be asking questions and I would start with the Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger. Everyone on the council said they had no prior knowledge. Someone knew something. One more thing, don’t be fooled that Councilman Gary "Scocshe" Monahan did the right thing in recusing himself. His restaurant is further than 500 ft. away. If the room wasn't packed with people he would have voted. But he has been around the block before and was not about to go down for Mensinger's sloppiness and hubris. He would love to see 208 new residents of the luxury apartments coming to his restaurant across the way. My question is how you get people to pay luxury prices when you have drugs and prostitution on one side and gangs on the other. As I see it the mobile home park is not the issue. You can't even see it from the street. It is an oasis in the midst of that whole block. As a resident of Rolling Homes Mobile Home Park and American, I understand that The Cover family corporation has a right to sell their property. I am not against that... it is the arrogant, sneaky and underhanded way of going about it that demonstrates lack of equity and fairness that I am against. We don't have the resources that a Billion Dollar Developer has or even the family that owns the mobile home park. You don't need a grenade to kill a fly, but that is exactly what they are doing. I just want them to use the flyswatter, follow the procedures and laws and do things in a fair and equitable manner. The disdain for our laws and procedures and arrogance displayed by the developers and city council is not what America is about. Even though the council shot down the zoning change (for the moment) I couldn't help but have that feeling that I needed to take a shower and wash off the dirty, slimy feeling of seeing our city council in action.

7/20/2013 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger just wondering... said...

Great letter by Giambona. Sadly, this is "business as usual" in Costa Mesa.

7/21/2013 11:51:00 AM  

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