Thursday, March 06, 2014

Friction Marks Fairview Park Citizens Meeting

The most recent monthly meeting of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Meeting Wednesday night at the Neighborhood Community Center was marked by slow progress, extended hours and friction among the members.

The meeting began benignly enough with a presentation by Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia presenting an update on the Archaeological Survey being conducted within the park.  The last one was completed in 1993.

Then members of the Harbor Soaring Society gave a report on their history in the park, their community outreach and their desires to extend their permit to operate at the park for another five years.  The city council voted to only extend their permit through the end of this year when the then-current permit expired last year.  Henry Smith, shown, told us that the HSS was formed in 1982 and currently has between 80-90 members. He and John Anderson discussed many elements of the HSS activities, including their involvement in the Design/Build/Fly program.

During Public Comments a handful of people rose to express concern about the items to be discussed for the Southwest Quadrant of the park last night.

The highlight of the Public Comments for me was the presentation by young Eagle Scout candidate Christian Redman.  His project is to plant 800 new plants within the park on March 16th.  He's looking for help with the project in the form of manual labor and/or financial aid to buy the plants.  The flyer explains it all.  (Click on it to enlarge.)

Following Public Comments and before they tackled the main item on the agenda - evaluating which items should or should not be considered further during their discussion of the Southwest Quadrant, Chairman Dr. Richard Mehren (shown here with Vice Chair Steve Smith) used his bully pulpit - inappropriately, in my view - to read several letters to the committee from the last meeting's batch of correspondence, then castigate members of the committee for trying to advance their own agenda.  He expressed his opinion that many members do not represent the community and indicated that he'd "held my water for a long time", expressing frustration and that the issues being discussed by the committee should go on the ballot.  I watched as committee members, staff and audience stared in disbelief at Mehren's outburst.  More on that later.

Because of the large number of items to be discussed, the staff report presented only half of them - the first twelve (12).  HERE is the link to the staff report.  Because of the nature of the items, and because they permitted public comments on each and every one, working through the process took more time than anticipated.  They votes to extend the time twice, eventually ending the meeting shortly after 9:00 p.m. - an hour longer than anticipated.

Only four (4) of the twelve items considered at this meeting will receive further staff consideration/analysis and be brought back to the committee for further assessment.  The remaining eight (8) either died for lack of a motion being made, or a second being found or had a tie vote, which meant it was defeated.  Interestingly, issue number 3, the possible expansion of the trains to the West Side of the park, over the bridge  and around the bluff, ended up in a 4-4 tie and thus failed.

Those items that passed were:
#1 - Additional Picnic Structures - 7-1 (Steve Smith voted no)
#4 - Improve Information Kiosk, SW Quadrant - 7-1 (Smith voting no again)
#5 - Vernal Pools Preservation with Cables/Signage and Delineation - 7-1 (Smith again)
#7 - Retain the Elements of the Master Plan as it Reads Now - 7-1 (Brett Eckles voted no)

That last one requires some explanation.  Smith presented an explanation, apparently agreed upon by staff during their pre-meeting, that defined exactly what a "yes" and "no" vote meant.  He actually read it twice and I'm not sure anyone in the room understood what their vote might mean.  Still, they went forward with it, with the result indicated.

Items NOT moving forward were:
#2 - Baseball/Softball Facilities - Died for lack of a motion
#3 - Expand Train Routes - Failed on a 4-4 vote.  Member David Stiller remains hospitalized and was absent.  Members Popp, Cummings, Eckles and Amburgey voted yes.  Members Vrska, Ramos, Smith and Mehren voted no.
#6 - Soccer/Football Fields - Died for lack of a motion
#8 - Install a Two-Tier Building w/Interpretive Center/Terrace/Viewing Deck - Died for lack of a second
#9 - Westside Grass Area/Sprinkler System Improvements - Died for lack of a second
#10 - Basketball/Handball Courts - Died for lack of a motion
#11 - Eroding Bluffs - Install Staircase SW Quadrant - Died for lack of a motion
#12 - Install Information Kiosks with Pamphlets - Died for lack of a motion

At their next meeting in April the committee will tackle the remaining dozen items on the list earmarked last summer as potential activities/projects for the Southwest Quadrant of the park.  The staff will proceed with analysis of the four items above that were moved to go forward for further consideration.
Many members of the public - approximately 40 people attended the meeting - stepped up during the dozen discussions above, most of whom expressed the same thought - don't do anything to this Quadrant.  Of course, there were several eloquent speakers, who gave excellent reasons for their recommendations.  Barry Friedland was on hand to capture the event for replay on his YouTube site, Costa Mesa Brief.

At the end of the meeting, during Member Comments, Brett Eckles used most of his time to strongly criticize Mehren for his "abuse of power" earlier in the meeting.  He said he was offended that Mehren accused members of having an agenda when he, above all, had demonstrated a strong bias against doing anything from the very beginning.

Ron Amburgey echoed Eckles, stating, "You're the most biased person on this committee - you and Anna." (He meant member Anna Vrska).  He also said, "You're not keeping an open mind and you're not running the meeting properly."

Dennis Popp agreed with Amburgey, stating that "the position of the chair is not to promote a position of authority."  He said Mehren's actions were "an abuse of power".

I must say that I agree with much of that criticism.  Mehren violated Robert's Rules of Order with his rant earlier in the meeting.  That kind of criticism should have been done during the Member Comments segment, if at all.  I was disappointed with his performance last night.  He continues to struggle with the task of running the meetings and it makes for many awkward moments.  I keep hoping he will figure this out, but it doesn't seem to be happening.

So, off they go into the night, looking forward to another long meeting in April.  We can hope this one will end up with less rancor.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I am curious, were Mehren's comments spoken as a leader of the group or as a member? Because he is right. He has not been bullied because of his position as he has not set it out until now, but Anna certainly has been bullied. And, just like the gentleman the other night at the city council, she was bullied again by Righeimer when she asked for assistance with proper and updated data. At any rate, the only thing that stopped these guys was the Feds or we would have a sports complex built there. It may be that this is the only way to get a point across with these Rigonites. Good for Mehren. Give em' some of their own medicine.

3/06/2014 06:49:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

If I understand your post correctly, Mehren "pulled a Righeimer" and went off the procedural track, giving Rig-Bots Popp and Amburgey an opening to criticize.

If so, that was unfortunate.

In Mehren's defense, I'll say that his comments are wholly accurate. People get sick of playing with a stacked deck all the time. Thousands of people in Costa Mesa are tired of seeing and hearing dunces like Riggy, Mensy, and their supplicants oppress and mislead.

Americans naturally rebel against injustice and those who subvert democracy. When a solid citizen like Dr. Mehren does so, there's probably more to come.

3/06/2014 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

I'm sorry Dr. Mehren picked the wrong time to vent. That's all the Righeimer group needed to trounce him.

It's interesting to see Popp accuse anyone of "abusing power" considering who he works for.
He's either oblivious to his hypocrisy or he's ignoring it.

3/06/2014 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous jrs36 said...

Popp does know abuse and promoting positions of authority from the chair. His "Boss" Righeimer is the king practitioner !

3/06/2014 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous lovemygarden said...

Mr. Eckles certainly puffed up when Dr. Mehren read the remarks! I sometimes forget the committee even has a woman because I’m so amused by the antics of the old angry guys and now this young squirt. I find it ironic that Mr. Amburgey took umbrage at the allegation of bias when he clearly stated earlier in the meeting that he thought the soccer and football fields should be located on the other side of the street. They are as open minded about Fairview Park as Putin is about Ukraine. Dr. Mehren may have selected the wrong time to present his views, but I suspect he wanted to get his point made when he could get the full attention of the committee members (before they got caught up in the confusion of Item 7). Apparently he did.

3/06/2014 05:26:00 PM  

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